September without middle school will be strange. There will be no smiling adolescent faces in brand new clothes, girls trying to be cute and boys trying to be tough. No well-crafted teaching plans to fall by the wayside with a fire alarm or snow day. There will be no memorization of 150 names in a few days. There will be no bonding and collaborating with my fellow educators. For the first time in a decade, I won’t be teaching teenagers this fall. I welcome a leave of absence, yet I will miss school, all of its wonder and all of its stress.
I will miss learning about the newest boy bands. Yes Missy, I get it. One Direction is amazing. I will miss watching the evolution of teen fashion, girls all wearing Toms and boys wearing the latest brightest fare coupled with camouflage. I will miss their teasing me or commenting on my own hodge-podge style. I won’t miss having to confiscate hats, permanent markers, or iPods. I will miss the students rolling their eyes at me. I know, Morgan. I’m old.
I will not miss the incessant changes in terms of academic standards, testing procedures, and administrative software. I will, however, miss the amazing exuberance of adolescents. Yes, you, Aaron. I will not miss knowing there is no money for more technology despite social pressures. I will miss discussing difficult issues forced upon us, like the Newtown tragedy and subsequent gun control debates. I never tell my students what to think; I ask them to think from all sides of a situation-to strike a balance in a world that is so often lopsided. I know Olivia, you already did that.
I won’t miss explaining the nuances of semicolons, although a few students actually want to learn about them. I hope you’re using them, Grace. I will miss staining my fingers after using markers all day long. I won’t miss the ugly seventies carpet in my room, one ripped spot held together with my own duct tape. I will miss the incredible creativity that students can bring to bear on a project when given some clear parameters. Keep it up, Nathan.
I will miss seeing kids who were painfully shy emerge from their shells. Yes, you, Taylor! I will not miss the realization that some of my kids are bullies. The pain of growing up is alive in all of us when we peek in the mirror. I will not miss the singled-minded focus on testing. Too bad it can’t be on actual teaching. I will miss the look on a teenager’s face when I would sit down in the cafeteria, confirming that school lunch is, in fact, never going to earn a Zagat rating. Right, Colin?
I will not miss the politics, the personal agendas from the left, the right, and the righteous. Due to the funding mechanisms in place, a position was cut at my school, while the state is considering paying outsiders to evaluate teachers. The irony is thick. I will miss seeing students diligently writing to persuade me why we should allow iPods in class. I will not miss revelatory moments when young eyes shine, when students make connections, when they realize that the different subjects in school are related.
I won’t miss grading papers, but I will miss reading teen ideas. I won’t miss hearing the bells-except the one after 8th period. Everyone likes that one. This September, I won’t hear it, and for a teacher, that will be bittersweet.