(Can you guess which one is me?)
First of all, I would like to point out that it has been over 10 years since I started middle school, and so I can already tell you, I'm out of the loop. I'm officially old according to a middle schooler, but I did have the blessing (or possibly the curse) of teaching middle school art last year and I learned oh so much.
Teaching middle schoolers really took me back to 2005, when I first walked into those doors of 6th grade, and it reminded me that you could not pay me any amount of money to go back to that time. Middle school SUCKS. Girls are evil, boys still eat their boogers, and yet somehow they are all seeking to find someone to date.
I'd like to say not much has changed since I graced middle school with my presence, but oh my sweet pancakes how it has. Social media has infected teenagers and preteens like a virus, and I am so glad I didn't have it when I was their age. I got my first cell phone when I was 14, and it didn't have texting, it most certainly didn't have the internet, it didn't even have a front camera that would let me stare at myself all day, and it only had about 20 minutes a month for me to talk to my friends on. So basically, having a cell phone was just to look cool, because we all still called each other on the house phone to save our minutes on our phone. Add a few years on to that and texting became cheaper, so I got that. Then when I was 17, I got the very first iPhone and that's what I had in my hand when I graduated high school. Instagram wasn't introduced into our would until the tail end of my second semester of high school, and no one had it or Snap Chat. Just Facebook and Myspace (omg how ancient).
(My 7th grade yearbook photo...when I was in 7th grade there were not YouTube makeup tutorials to help me...also eyebrows were never on fleek.)
My point with that grandpa rant was to say that Middle schoolers now have about 700 social platforms to have to fit in with. So many places to be called ugly or beautiful, have 10 friends or 1,500 friends. Once something is uploaded to the internet, it is so hard to make it disappear and go away. That is a really big responsibility for someone who still eats their own boogers.
The pressure to look, talk, and act like you are an adult is heavy in middle school. Much higher than when I was. I watched my middle schoolers for 9 months taunt and tease each other, and I listened to conversations that shouldn't be happening for about 6 more years (or ever), but they were all so used to it. They were all participating in it, and if they weren't then they were totally left out and "weird". But if I had a one-on-one conversation with them, it was like I was actually talking to a 12 year old. I know that the longing to still act like a kid is in there, they just aren't allowed to do it. If I took them out to the play ground, they immediately turned into little kids again, and it was such a great thing to witness.
Their peers aren't the only ones putting pressure on them to act like adults, adults are doing it too. The homework load is WAY higher now. They are offering high school credit classes to the 8th graders, so that way when they get to high school they can take college credit classes and get a jump start on college and can decide what they want to do/be for the rest of their life at 14 years old. It is unacceptable to expect this from kids 11-14 years old.
Trying to make friends, wearing the best clothes, wishing your body looked like an adult's body, having the newest and nicest phones, keeping up with social media all day every day, plus all the academics that are loaded on these kids is plenty enough to make them act out and make poor decisions. I had many days that I went home from teaching middle school, crying, because I felt out of place, or because watching and listening to conversations at their age made me sad, or because trying to get through to someone at their age in our day and age is virtually impossible.
(See, now I am in love with this man, but in 7th grade he said things like this...was he flirting?)
So here's my whole point in writing this:
Middle Schoolers-you are still a kid, and that is okay. Act like one. You don't have to act or dress like an adult who is looking to have sex, you don't have to have the best iPhone for people to like you, you don't have to post the perfect selfie to be beautiful, you body isn't going to look right for a while and neither is anyone else's. You should always be friends with people who make you happy and who care about you, don't be friends with the kids who pressure you to do stuff. You should always, always, always be nice. I don't care what everyone else is doing. Be nice. To everyone. There is never a valid excuse for being a bully. Remember that everyone has issues, everyone has insecurities even if they seem incredibly confident (they're probably the most insecure), and everyone is just trying to fit in. These are probably the worst 3 years of school that you will have to live through, so keep your eye on the prize. Oh, and be nice to your art teacher ;)
Parents of Middle Schoolers(or anyone who is in charge of middle schoolers)-Don't be blind. They are probably talking about sex, they are possibly having sex, and they are totally telling each other they've had sex to look cool even if they haven't, they are most likely cussing, they are definitely sending pictures on snapchat that you wouldn't approve of, they are talking about smoking cigarettes/weed and maybe even doing it, all of their friends are pressuring them to do really ignorant things, they are listening to music that is telling them to have sex and do drugs, they are wearing way too much makeup and showing way too much cleavage, the girls are potentially heading down the roads to eating disorders, and the boys are potentially causing them, or heading down the road to sexual harassment charges, they are lying to you about something, they do still love you, and they are so incredibly lost and need you to be sensitive to that. I listened to conversations with good kids that didn't know I was paying attention, and the goods kids are doing a lot of this too, even if they're lying about it all, they feel the pressure to claim to be cool enough to do it. They will grow out of most of the things they're doing by 9th grade, and they'll actually become really cool people if you don't let them get too corrupted by the time they get to high school.
Just be patient.
(Middle schoolers today will never get to have the fashion sense we had...Hollister shirts on top of a cami that showed out the bottom and matched your old navy flip flops paired with your flared jeans. What a time to be alive. Oh and also...duck face. All I need to say.)