Mary Holden is a teacher in Nashville, Tennessee. I have met Mary on several occasions, usually when I was in Nashville. She spent 15 years teaching  high school, then switched to middle school, teaching sixth grade. She wasn’t sure how she would react to the change. In short, she LOVED it!

There are many weird things that happen in middle school that I never experienced as a high school teacher. Boogers. Penises drawn in weird places. Bad smells, especially after PE on a hot day. Excessive bottle flipping. Weird dance moves that kids break into constantly and at the most random times. Fortnite, Fornite, Fornite. Pokemon. K-Pop. More Fortnite. Do you play Fornite, Mrs. Holden? No?? Why not? Some unusually phrased graffiti in the bathroom because these kids think they know what they’re talking about when it comes to sex but really they have no idea (most of them, anyway).

Also, farts. I mean, audible farts during class. Oh, and burps, too. And lots of talking about farts and burps. Do these kids not realize the embarrassment it might cause them? No, not in 6th grade, they don’t. I’m teaching 7th grade next year – next summer, I’ll give a full report on whether or not they care about these things yet.

In 6th grade, there are loose teeth and boo-boos healed with Band-Aids. Silly jokes. Random stories that go on and on about what they did over the weekend. And there are hugs. Hugs because they are happy and hugs because they are feeling sad. There are tears sometimes. Tantrums, even. I’ve been called Mom more than once. That doesn’t really happen in high school much. I mean, think back to your own experience in middle school. It’s a really strange and awkward time in life. It’s something we all have to get through. And so teaching middle school is full of unusual things that happen on a daily basis.

But I also experienced real joy. Kids who love to read. (YAY!!! This makes me so happy!!) Kids who still see the magic in things. (I may or may not have squashed a student’s belief in the Elf on the Shelf being real.) (Yes, in 6th grade!) (Also, I’m sorry about that, kiddo, I thought you knew!) When we were studying Ancient Egypt in Social Studies class and we mummified a chicken, they were really into it! And when we read The Giver, Freak the Mighty, and Refugee in English class, they were really moved. Like I could see the awe and fear and sadness and joy in their faces as we read and talked about each book. That kind of thing dwindles away as we get older and is much harder to detect in high school. Kids this age are creative and love to show it – they wrote creepy tales of their own and created ABC books about ancient civilizations. I feel like I really got to know my students this year and, as a result, really grew to care deeply about them in a way I didn’t always experience at the high school level. And as a bonus, most of my students really like school and learning new things! It was inspiring to see.

Mary reminds me of what I tell future teachers when they ask if they are doing the right thing by going into teaching.

In the future,  your students won’t remember the name of the mayor or the governor. They won’t remember the name of the superintendent. They will remember you.