Reactionary Behavior

I’ve been reflecting on the “behaviors” and “attitudes” exhibited by the 6th graders at school a lot lately.  On one hand they’re a bit annoying — irresponsible, disrespectful, and totally into risky behaviors.  On the other hand, isn’t that what middle school kids do?

I don’t remember much weird behavior in 6th grade with Mr. Deardorff.  In part because we were a K-6 school, in the middle of nowhere, and away from the “distractions” of home.  Add to that the corporal punishment piece, and we were generally good kids.  There’s always going to be one or two.

The years we moved to 7th and 8th (thus becoming a K-8), we moved the school location, seeded the class with new people, and some interesting things started happening.  There was DRAMA all over the place.  Seriously.  I do remember that we were NOT good for the art teacher.  I think she was too nice and we were too wild.  Yes, folks, we were too wild.  I distinctly remember having that moniker placed upon us.

Our dramas were drug, anorexic,  relationship (sex) related.  Hook-ups would occur in class.  Now remember, we were bused in; we didn’t necessarily live near each other (I was the one who lived near NO ONE).  So on weekends the phone calls would start.  The classroom relationship of the week was at risk of ending because the young man in question had a girlfriend in his own neighborhood.  He had met her roller skating and, GASP, kissed her.

Then the class would chose sides like some sort of prepubescent Hatfield and McCoys.  While 2/3 of our class was comprised of males (I think there were only 8 girls), they wouldn’t all side together.  They had hopes of hooking up! The arguing would occur at recess and on the bus.  It was insane.  The boys would be jerks and the girls would be crybabies.  Both would rail about how unrealistic it was to expect x, y, z from a middle school relationship.  It seemed it’d go on a couple of days and then go away.

That said, it was our entertainment.  Strangely, no one ever talked to us about it as a group.  I think back then, in the dark ages, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and “scaping” was left to land, adults just didn’t get their knickers knotted up about such stuff.

Now we did have a drug and alcohol problem.  How it was handled I wouldn’t know.  Remember, we were a VERY SMALL SCHOOL — one of every grade.  However, discipline didn’t overflow to other students.  It stayed with the person and the problem; with the teacher and the administrator.  Nice kid, by the way.  Cute.  Messed up.

To be quite honest, if I hate homework, I hate interfering in kids’ lives more.  At some point I just want to leave well enough alone, let natural consequences take place (fail school, don’t have enough units to go to high school, get teased, get your heart broken, etc.). On the other hand, I don’t know how many of these behaviors are actually cries for help from lost souls who need some guidance back to the land of good.  Everyone can step away from the precipice of peril; some just need to know that they’re not being “chicken” for doing so.

So here I am, no closer to a conclusion about how to deal with teenage behavior.  Do I react to every small thing like I’m Chicken Little and the sky is falling?  Do I sit back and see how they fly solo like Crush the Turtle?  Do I keep them from testing themselves like Marlon Nemo’s father?  Or do I treat each situation as it comes, realizing I am only one person in the vast ocean of their lives?

You know, I should drink coffee if I’m going to ruminate like this at 5 in the morning. 🙂


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