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only a memory
Oct 13th, 2010 by wrekehavoc

middle school, the second time around.

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do you remember middle school? or junior high? or, as the town fathers called it in my hometown, intermediate school? that period of time that probably ought to be called the bataan death march through puberty? those years when you were sure that everyone noticed the pimple on your face, and you could tell by the whispers that it was the best topic ever amongst the other kids since john snapped jane’s bra in the cafeteria? those years when you were thrown together with kids from all over town, some of whom displayed manners which indicated that their parents apparently were attila the hun and mata hari?

well, now that BC is embroiled in the magical world of middle school, it is, as leo durocher once said, deja vu all over again.

it’s hard to look on to the scene without wanting to scream. or intervene. or just completely become dissembled. each day, i hear the stories: the locker partner who has taken over the locker and who won’t listen to reason. the mean girls at lunch. the teacher who doesn’t seem to care that you cannot see the board and who has no time to discuss the matter with you. and it goes on.

i have been trying to let the girl fight her own battles. i cannot step in forever, deus ex mama that i am.  but i’m beginning to think that 6th grade isn’t the time for the girl to be on her own. i’ve told her that she needs to give it a try first, but if she gets no satisfaction or response, then she needs to tell me what’s going on so that i can join her chorus. but how can she talk to her teachers when there’s no time at class’s start or end and the teacher will not entertain questions during class time? how will she handle some of these girls, who mistakenly believe they are richer and prettier and better than she is?

so here’s my problem. i am now, ehhem, a 21  year old mom who doesn’t possess the same fears that i did when i was a girl of a certain age. my advice now probably is lacking a certain, oh, how do you say, subtlety. a seat was empty at the lunch table, and BC sat down at it. the Queen Bee of All Queen Bees made it a point to walk over from where she was and tell BC to get her ass up off the table and move — that was HER seat. BC, being a sensible little thang, told her that she wasn’t sitting there, so what was the problem? the problem, according to the bigger Miss Thang, was that it was where she would normally sit.

(i know. the logic of 12 year old girls has always eluded me. even when i was 12, just 9 short years ago…)

so BC looked around, saw that two of her friends were sitting elsewhere, and got up and moved.

now, WWWD? (translation: what would wreke do?) if i had been a 12 year old with the mind of a more experienced me, i, of course, would have politely told the queen bee that she’d better leave me alone. pissing me off is not an option. if she wanted to pursue it further, well, i would gladly do so in a way that she would probably always remember. see,  even in my imagined younger state, i am no longer intimidated by 12 year old girls, the likes of whom think they’re fierce just because they shop at Justice.

honey: fierce is a perimenopausal woman who hasn’t slept since 1998, who has not yet had her morning coffee, and who has just about lost her patience for the petty bullshit that passes for social intercourse among tweens.

fortunately, BC followed her own advice and not mine. i suspect by doing so, she will not be ostracized in the cafeteria, at least not this week.

in other news, you think i’m projecting my own delightful middle school experiences on the situation much? mmm, mebbe.

so my new goal: try to erase from my psyche those memories of social-climbing, back-stabbing, and nasty people who won’t listen to you and who treat you as if you are invisible. all the things that made intermediate school so very, very memorable. for no matter how you slice it, middle school is an awful holding pen for the angsty pubescent kids and the teachers who loathe them. ’tis a timeless situation. and it’s time for the girl to make her own memories out of her own fresh hell.

i just need to shut up and cheer her on.

do not touch?
Oct 12th, 2010 by wrekehavoc

Recently, I was at elementary school, talking with our gym teacher about my son. I’ve noticed lately that the boy likes to stand on his head, flip around, and basically bounce. A lot. While team sports don’t seem to work well for him yet, some sort of physical activity would probably be beneficial for energetic little him, for me, and frankly, for the rest of the world. (You can thank me later.)

In short, I’m wondering whether gymnastics might be a way to go for him.

I hearkened back to my own gym experience. We had entire units on tumbling, on the rings, on the pommel horse. While I never did grow up to be Nadia Comăneci (and yes, I know I am dating myself, you Mary Lou Rettons out there), I enjoyed gymnastics — the weightlessness, even for just that second, before flying over the horse (and often into one of my less intelligent classmates who didn’t move away from it fast enough.) Leaping ever so carefully on the balance beam. What I would give to be able to perform those flips I once did without living in fear that I’d require traction and anti-inflammatories!

So I asked our gym teacher: when will my son’s class get to do a unit on gymnastics? His reply?

Not in this school.

Apparently, the threat of litigation has backburnered this pursuit in our public school. I was told that when a teacher spots a student, he or she may have to actually touch the child; and since movement is involved, there is too much fear that a teacher might accidentally be in contact with a child in an improper manner. And even if that contact is purely accidental, the fear of getting sued, losing your job, and having your reputation sullied beyond all recognition outweighs the possibility of teaching a child to discover this ancient athletic pursuit.

Obviously, my sympathies are ever-present with any child who has fallen victim to a predatory adult; and there’s no question that persons in power who are abusive ought to be severely punished. However, this situation makes me think about where we are going as a society. When teachers cannot teach to children because of a fear that they may touch a child and that the child, in turn, may cry foul (whether true or not), what is lost? There’s a certain communication that comes with physicality; and while I don’t advocate that teachers go out of their way to lay hands on their pupils, this scenario tells me that litigiousness has won the day.  And how sad: for I remember fondly teachers patting me on the head, hugging me, and yes, spotting me in gymnastics. I know how I appreciated all of these gestures; and I mourn the fact that my children will likely have radically different educational experiences with their teachers. There will be little touching.

There is a beautifully sad story entitled Hands in Sherwood Anderson’s masterpiece Winesburg, Ohio that concerns a dedicated teacher named Wing Biddlebaum. Biddlebaum is estranged from society for decades because he has one “flaw”: he expresses himself with his hands. The story shares that in his younger years, Biddlebaum was a teacher who never touched any child inappropriately, but who caressed his students’ heads and shoulders in a supportive manner. Unfortunately, one day, a “half-witted boy” falsely alleged molestation, and Biddlebaum was driven from another town to Winesburg, where he lived alone on the outskirts, cut off because of his hands. He feared communicating with anyone ever again, all because of his fluttering, expressive hands.

Such a loss.

Originally posted on Smartly.


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