Middle School Spy

Do you have a kid in middle school? Is their day a mystery to you? Are you tired of the “nothing.” answer when you ask them what they did at school?

Never fear! Your friendly neighborhood middle-aged middle school spy is here to pull back the veil.

The day starts with literal grunts and drooling in first period. It does not matter if their teacher has a ring of fire around the classroom and aerialists waving machetes, they are not engaged. There is brain function available only enough to operate their hoods and their eye rolls- if they are female.

7:30 am first period is so overtaxing on their adolescent still-forming brains that they cannot ever fathom to remember that at some point during the day, a pencil will be required. It is now the end of January, and shockingly, teachers are STILL expecting students at school to be able to whip a pencil out at any moment in the event a note needs to be taken or a worksheet needs to be filled out. Astounding, right?! And not only are some students not prepared with a single solitary number 2 pencil, but it is somehow their expectation that their mediocre salaried teacher is supposed to supply them with said writing device. Daily.

Sometime around the halfway point to second period, the grunts become monosyllabic words as they begin to understand their locations. They start to interact with their peers and realize they are in fact at school. This is when their palms get itchy and they need to ‘discreetly’ attempt the cell phone check. Surely the teachers will not suspect a kid staring at their crotch is suspicious. The giant front pocket of the hoodie could not possibly contain a cell phone, right?! The long hair covering their ears and insulated by a hood definitely instills trust that there is not an earbud in sight. The one-handed hand-in-pocket walk to the bathroom would never give up a student’s intention to check their phone in the bathroom.

I mean surely the adults aren’t smart enough to figure that out. Jokes on the kids, though, because half of the staff is old enough to have used all the same tricks when they were students themselves.

By the end of first period, the inmates – I mean STUDENTS – have enough blood flow to switch classes. The passing period becomes a cacophony of greetings, shoves, backpack body checks and language that would make a sailor blush. Seventh graders are 13 years old and I’ve learned terminology that would make a trucker take note. Don’t even get me started on the eighth graders.

Your cherubs curse, folks. All the curses. All the “ear muffs!” you attempted 100% failed 100% of the time based on the phrases these 13-14 yr olds use. And let me tell you, my Mom brain has to shut off to remain professional and not chastise their verbiage. The best I can do when I identify if it’s one of my kiddos is to give them The Mom Look. The teachers ask the students refrain from using this language in the classrooms because there is zero chance it can be monitored or regulated in the halls or out and about on campus. I realize some parents out there are horrified to know that we cannot put shock collars on these underdeveloped humans to enforce any conformity to the rules, but there you have it. If you want to call and complain that the staff is allowing your child to use this language at school, have a long hard look in the mirror first and decide if you can prove your child was reared in a sound-proof bubble because that’s the only way they didn’t bring that mouth from home to school already fully equipped.

If you are starting to worry that your child might actually be turning into a small feral adult, don’t worry. There is hope! Those $100+ shoes you bought them recently will NOT be creased by the end of the day. The duck-walking masses of materialistic adolescents have seemingly one mission for the day;
Don’t. Crease. The. Shoes.

And if there is a crease, there is a bruised shoulder or a black eye on a nearby friend to prove retribution for the unforgiveable act. PE is my own land of entertainment while the students attempt to do warm ups while keeping feet flat on the gym floor and their shoes in one attached brick of fashion.

For the most part, it is delightful to have a front row seat to watching the future grow into itself. This generation is feral, yes. Responsible, no. Intelligent, definitely. Brave, no. Anxiety-ridden, yes. Inclusive, yes …. but not if your shoes are creased.

They really are, for the most part, fantastic kids. 7th and 8th graders get a bad rap, in my opinion. If you look them in the eyes, talk to them like a respected member of society, restrain your judgement long enough to hear their grunted, monosyllabic, skipping logic, you will see they have great ideas. I cannot imagine the pressure of growing up in a social media age where your every mistake or faux pas can be digitally recorded for all time and shared whenever/wherever but they are managing in their own ways. These kids are socially stunted from the Covid Era and it shows. It 100% shows, but I think the pros of what that time did to them will show itself. I have never known a more inclusive generation of people. It’s fascinating to me to watch how they interact when they think an adult isn’t looking. I have a unique perspective into the fishbowl as my job requires that I disappear as often as possible within their world. I am just there to supplement a communication need and for the most part, they are kind and accepting of my presence. I’ve heard them curse, I’ve seen them pull fire alarms, I’ve seen them support differently-abled students, I’ve watched them support their teachers on a hard day, I’ve heard them stand up for themselves when they think an injustice has been doled out. I’ve had them compliment me – both ironically and genuinely – and I’ve seen their capacity for teamwork. They are good kids. It’s hard to remember the weight of their journey when they seem so incapable of the big things, but with minimal guidance, they will arrive at their destination. They will arrive late, without a pencil, with crippling anxiety and a smart phone, but their shoes will be immaculate!

Sidenote: I wonder what future work fashion will be when these kids become working adults. Will there be hoodie blazers? Will we have sweatshirt suits and slippers for workwear? Pajama day is 4 days a week and Professional Dress Day Fridays? Will pencils finally be obsolete?

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