There is much I have still to figure out about life, particularly when it comes to human nature. Specifically, why is it that when told I must do something, I immediately dig my heels in, and find some way to gum up the works? “Gum up the works” is what I used to say before I capitulated, and started tossing f-bombs around like they were frisbees.
I always did like throwing the frisbee.
Go ahead. Tell me I can’t raise my kids without spanking them because they will not “respect” me.
Tell me I can’t put sixth, seventh and eighth graders in the same classroom, or that these same middle schoolers can’t pull off a full-length Shakespeare production, in the original language of the Renaissance, because, well, you know, they’re just middle schoolers.
|"After all, they're just middle schoolers..."|
Tell me I can’t wear sandals in the snow, and watch my feet turn blue before I take them off.
It’s a gift, I must admit, and one that I cherish. Can you say obtuse?
I have always felt that inwardly, I share many of the characteristics of the prototypical eighth grader. That explains why the age level had so much appeal to me. The trick was to never take it personally.
Eighth graders have a job to do, and it’s an important one. They need to test limits and they need to do it in front of their peers. I taught my sons to question authority but to do so with a smile.
Telling an eighth grader to question authority, is like telling the rest of us to breathe. It’s going to happen so you may as well shoot for damage control.
Go ahead. Tell a class of 31 eighth graders that drugs are bad and they must avoid them. The students are bound to see the wisdom of your words and do as you say.
Am I right or what?
Or you could tell them that many kids experiment with different adult activities, and that to a certain extent, this is all part of that “testing of limits.” You could also tell them that in doing so, there are many choices to be made.
When, where and with whom are three good ones for starters. Hypothetically [I would ask them] would you be better off experimenting with cannabis on a field trip, with one or more of your bff’s, or at a friend’s house, where no one was going to be leaving the premises for any reason?
If two or more eighth graders share a secret, the chances of that secret remaining unrevealed, are slim and none, and Slim’s out back copping a quick joint.
|That's Slim, while visiting the Demilitarized |
Zone between North and South Korea, in 1972.
Inevitably we would be having this conversation just prior to taking off on a field trip, possibly of the five-day variety to Yosemite. Paul, my teaching partner, and I would put forth the proposition, that having your parents make the ten-hour trip to pick you up, and then having to ride all the home with them, might prove to be more fun than you really wanted.
We just asked them to consider all the factors and then “make wise choices.”
We found it to be a far more effective tool than “just say no.” Having to confront the reality of making a decision, rather than simply going along with someone else’s program, was-and is-an empowering tool. Peer pressure is a formidable force and I am still finding out how effective-or not-certain tools were back in the day.
I like having a choice. Not being of middle school age any longer, even if emotionally that may not always be readily apparent, I like being able to consciously decide whether or not I want to be a "weisenheimer," or what Mama used to call me when I was being a little dick.
Oh shit-shoot!-did I just say that? Mama is spinning in her grave.
But you see what I mean? Tell me I can’t use the same words that I used to rally so hard against, and listen to my quick response.
In Spanish, if you would like.
No, I recognize a greater force at work than I, and I am happy to go along with the program.