Friday, October 18, 2013

Tales From Middle School: We Laugh Because We Must

Ah, the middle school experience.

I thought I was done with it. I was pretty sure I'd done my time. Those two years at WAMS should have been the end of my sentence.

Rite of Passage: check.

Then I took a job working with an afterschool program at the local middle school. And I find myself in a position to watch other kids go through that right of passage.

I've only mentioned the job once, but it actually makes up a large part of my day-to-day. It's definitely an experience. I get to see kids at the beginnings of their selves. I get to watch them make decisions about the people they want to be. I get to see them think things through and grow in maturity. And I also get to see them in the moments where what's left of their innocence shines through in some of great ways.

Of course, it's not always great. Some days they make me crazy. Some days the behavior can be overwhelming and confusing. Some days we have to laugh because it's the only way to deal. You'll hear about those, trust me. Because even if I have to change names, I plan to document some of my experiences here. Because some of my stories are absolute gems of the "you can't make this stuff up" variety.

So I'm starting that today. But instead of jumping into the challenging stuff, I'm gonna talk about the good from today. There were a few hiccups with the kids, but the good was stronger than the bad, and I laughed more than I sighed.

Today I found myself really impressed by one of the boys.

We went outside so the kids could play soccer. One team was arguing over who was going to play goalie because no one wanted to. Finally I asked the other teacher to think of a number between 1 and 6 (the number of players we had on the team) and I counted off the kids. The kid whose number matched the one the other teacher was thinking of did not want to be goalie. He complained about not wanting to "just stand there."

Then I heard another kid say, "Hey Matt, I'll be goalie. It's cool." I was skeptical. Some of the kids get lazy and don't like to participate. I asked him, "Why? Because you want to "just stand there"?

And he said, "No, because Matt's mom wants to watch him play."

I was taken aback in the best way. I had forgotten that Matt's mother was standing nearby to watch the game, but Juan saw that she was there. He understood how much it would mean not only for Matt's mom to get to watch her son play, but also for Matt to play for his mom.

I hate to say it, but I don't always see that kind of thing. That kind of consideration and caring, and yes, self-sacrifice, because that's kind of a big deal for a bunch of kids who had just spent 5 minutes arguing about who was going to play that position. It made me happy. It was one of those things that makes you forget all of the bad stuff. And since then I've been bragging about him to anyone who would listen.

And just as a bonus, a cute interaction:

Jose: Ow. My head hurts.
Me: Did you hit the soccer ball with your head?
Jose: Yes.
Me: Dennis did that earlier, he didn't hurt his head. Does Dennis have a harder head than you?
Jose: I don't know.
Me: Hey Dennis, do you have a harder head than Jose?
Dennis (who has a really cute, Spanish accent that makes "yes" sound more like "jes"): Um, yes, it got stronger because my mom dropped me twice.

I don't know if that's very cute to you, but I think it's absolutely adorable. I dunno, maybe I'm just a little bias and a little attached. Some of these kids I just can't help but like.

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