Saturday, May 20, 2017

Oh Junior High.

It hit me so quickly.  I was shocked and speechless and pathetically embarrassed.  Then of course I got defensive and wanted to explain.  I felt the need to explain.  I wanted them to understand why I had made such a decision.  I wanted them to know I am still cool.  I wanted them to... accept me.

What happened you ask?

All year my students have begged to meet Brad.  So I had his temporary babysitter drop him off to my school at the end of a school day.  Brad came in as cute and shy as could be.  And then a student whispered,  "AND1?s"  Then someone else, "Do you see his shoes, he's wearing AND1s!"

At first I was confused.  So confused.  And then it came.  The embarrassment.  The humiliation.  The shame.  Brad was wearing Walmart brand shoes.

For 2 seconds I remembered what it was like to be a 15 insecure kid all over again. The flood of emotions of what it was like to be a junior high kid came crushing down on me.

(Literally 2 seconds and I was over it.  But I want to focus on those 2 seconds)

I just finished a book I highly recommend, "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown.  She is a huge TED talk celebrity.  This book is about daring to be vulnerable.  And it's awesome.  One thing that she talked about refreshed an idea that I strongly believe.  The idea that so much of our perception of ourselves comes from our experience in junior high years.

I think some people are able to get over it.  Change their perception of themselves.  But really almost everyone I know for better or for worse is built around a core of their junior high self.

And what a scary idea that is.

Why was I so humiliated when my students made fun of Brad's Walmart shoes?  Because in junior high my goal was to always stay under the radar.  I knew I couldn't compete with the "rich" kids so my goal was just to never be noticed.  Never have anything stand out, be different, be "weird" enough for anyone to make fun of.  And honestly,  I feel like I accomplished my goal very well.  I made it out of junior high pretty unscathed.  I had a great group of nerdy friends.  I honestly don't remember being bullied or teased at all.  Sure, I was so jealous of all the girls that had boyfriends.  Boys never gave me any type of attention which caused a lot of insecurities but for the most part I made it out great. And still there is a spot deep down that was embarrassed when my students made fun of Brad's shoes.

Why do I bring this topic up?

First, it's crazy the people I know that came out of junior high pretty scarred.  The issues that people deal with for the rest of their life because of their experiences in junior high.  Some examples: a dear sweet friend of mine (I told her this in person the other day so I feel it's okay to write about it on the blog?) she is beautiful, funny, and so freaking cool but she openly talks about being mousy, nerdy, and uncool.  Like this girl could have been a model, beautiful but she doesn't see it at all.   When talking to her about it, she moved to a different state in junior high.  She was shy, had few friends, and the whole experiences has shaped the rest of her life.  Or another example is a guy I know who was picked on unmercilessly.  The worst experience that I think his brother told me, not him, was being tied up with duck tape and thrown in the girls bathroom of the shop building.  He wasn't found for hours.  Although the experience and junior high in general greatly affected him, luckily he uses that experience to be kind to people.

I think an introspective look at who we think we are can be closely tied to what we thought we were in junior high.

Back to Brad and his shoes.  Why does he have Walmart shoes?  Because A. we are poor. B. It's super challenging to find shoes in Brad's size with hard rubber soles. C. the shoes are CUTE gosh darn it.  (Sorry I needed to justify my actions)

But luckily this story actually has a really sweet ending.  Every year I make connections with particular students.  It is hands down my favorite part of teaching.  I wish I could say I make connections with all my students.  But dude that is impossible with 294 students. (yes, I did just add up all the students I taught this year. 294.  That is insane.)  Anyway.  Those few real connections I make each year are what keeps me going.  And this year was no different.  One student in particular that I was worried about.  He is a good kid from a good family but the sports he plays has some real rascals this year.  So I kept a close eye on him and even orchestrated him getting into a different friend group.  (long story and my proudest moment of this school year)

Anyway, he was in that class, the class that made fun of Brad's shoes.  And the next day before school he came in with these:
and said, "Mrs. B, I think these are more Brad's style."  There are good good kids in junior high.  And especially surround by the weight of insecurity and hormones, the good deeds are all the more wonderful.

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