One and only one thing makes middle school difficult to teach. Puberty. One day nice, quiet girl comes in a lioness on the hunt and will try her newfound skills on those, who she perceives to be weak, around her. Usually, that weak person is me. It is startling, scary and, confusing. The same child who just tried to rip me into tiny pieces will start crying because she can’t handle the world around her. The boys are not much better. They become aggressive, like tigers, and out of the blue take on an angry countenance and return to their sweet, charming demeanor in front of my eyes. Now you know why I don’t watch scary movies, sometimes I’m living one.
The strongest tell tale sign of puberty is the voice. A drop in range makes the voice easier to hear so less force is required to project the sound. Fortunately, the kids don’t realize this so I hear every secret they try to hide. And the look of surprise, when confronted with the knowledge that they were thinking of ditching 4th hour is priceless.
The only time the voice is a problem is when the kids get on each other’s nerves. As was the case yesterday….Two loud boys were sitting next to each other. We were playing Catchphrase and the excitement was more than even the quiet kids could contain. Loud Boy One started yelling at Loud Boy Two. “BE QUIET! YOU’RE TOO LOUD FOOL!” Fool is a term they use to connote a close, friendly relationship.
And thus the teachable moment began. “Loud Boy One, remember how I taught you a softer voice is more effective than a louder voice. Loud voices express excitement or frustration. Softer voices express the ability to maintain control,” was the beginning of my intervention. “Remember, emotions are contagious.” He looked at me confused. Then I went into the cause and effect of voice volume and how people try to compete with loud, but softer pulls them down to the level you want. Ergo the softer voice has the control. Still not believing the cosmic truth I demonstrated and talked to him in an even softer voice than what I was using. As the effect of my voice hit his understanding of reality, his eyes lit up and he softly said, “Ohhhhhhh.” The rest of the class breathed a sigh of relief, because they too were about to be the recipients of a reprieve from the Loud Boys’ voices”
We were ready to commence the game and he indicated that he still had more to say and put his finger in the air. “You know what I just noticed,” we all looked towards him, “You use that quiet voice mostly on me.” We all burst in laughter, because, he was absolutely correct.
This is why middle school, in spite of the terror and the long hours and definitely the headaches, is so fun to teach. Eventually, they get it.