I find myself saying that a lot these days: “Sixth graders are weird.”
Sometimes I say it in frustration. Sometimes in commiseration. Sometimes in good humor. Its an all-purpose description of my students. I’m starting to think it should actually be the collective noun for them.
A “weird” of sixth graders. I’m pretty sure it works.
I expressed frustration in a post a couple weeks ago, and I admit that things are better. Maybe they’ve just had two more weeks of maturing, but I’m back to enjoying my job.
The weirdness is usually part of the fun. As a teacher, one of the things I enjoy most, is figuring out how to motivate a student. What is it that will help them overcome whatever is preventing them from working on a given day? in a given moment? Sometimes a student needs someone just to listen while they vent. Sometimes they need a confidence boost. Sometimes they need a pencil. Whatever it is, the psychology of figuring that out is something I enjoy.
And the weirdness that seems to be part of sixth grade makes it even more entertaining. Sometimes, they seem to need to crawl under a table so they can be alone. Sometimes they need to write with a pencil rather than a pen, but they just can’t find a pencil (even though there has been a jar with extra pencils in the back of my room for the past six weeks…). Sometimes they need a lap around the second floor to calm down because the “world hates them.” Figuring out how to calm them down/get them motivated/help them organize….that’s the real challenge.
But at the same time, the weirdness is also fun. I think this is going to be the group that fulfills my career-long dream of having a Glee moment in class. There are times when a song comes on Pandora while the kids are working and they start singing along. This week, one of them actually started waving his hands and trying to teach the choreography to kids around him. (It’s only a matter of time before they learn it and the flash mob of dancers appears…I can’t wait for that spontaneous weirdness to happen!)
At the same time, my students are also generally pretty kind to each other. They like to help out. When someone is absent, I usually have multiple volunteers to help out and complete the “While You Were Out” sheet and collect handouts. They like to pitch in and clean or straighten book shelves. I have a couple that often stay after the last bell to put up the extra chairs so the custodians can vacuum. Just when I hit my limit on the ‘weird/irritating’ scale, one of them performs a random act of kindness that reminds me why I love my job.
Because students grow and change in a year. They like to be successful. And because sixth graders are weird…and kind.