My first year as a teacher, I taught high school. After the year ended, I reflected and thought to myself, “Now I can handle anything.” Then, I began teaching middle school.
Even though I’ve come to love teaching middle school, those first few weeks felt like I’d ridden the struggle bus to my new struggle apartment in Struggle Town, USA. It was tough!
It’s sometimes hard to describe what it’s like to teach middle school. But I think I’ve formulated some perfect comparisons, thanks to Jurassic Park. Here are seven ways Jurassic Park is just like teaching middle school.
1. Middle schoolers can smell fear.
On my first day teaching middle school (6th grade), I knew that I had to, very early in the year, establish strong classroom management. Fortunately, I was able to do this. But I saw plenty of teachers who had a tough time with this. Once, I actually saw a first-year teacher run out of her room crying, and she didn’t return to work for three days.
I witnessed that, people! And it showed me that, just like dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, middle schoolers can smell teachers’ fear.
2. The smells can be … interesting.
Speaking of smells, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the smell of middle schoolers. They sometimes smell like gigantic, ancient, prehistoric reptiles. The smell isn’t always repugnant either. Sometimes, it is just, well, weird.
Don’t believe me? Go take a stroll through a middle school locker room. Take a whiff of stale sweat, shorts that haven’t been washed in weeks, and body odor strong enough to singe your nose hairs. Imagine Axe Body Spray or strong perfume being added to this, and you can understand why you never know what you’re going to get.
3. You should always expect the unexpected.
The thing about Jurassic Park is that you never know when there is a dinosaur lurking around the corner. They jump out and scare or eat people. It’s safe to say that there is never, ever a dull moment in Jurassic Park—just like middle school.
If Jurassic Park teaches you anything about teaching middle school, it is that you have never seen it all. I once had a student come to school dressed in a Spider-Man costume. It wasn’t dress up or spirit day. When I asked him about it, he said, “Felt like a Spidy kind of day.” Only in middle school!
4. It’s often like a scene from the wild.
One thing that you should know about middle school is that it is wild! The hallways are often loud and wild. PE is wild. Middle school kids are wild. It’s intense—and it’s fun!
If you aren’t a bit wild inside, teaching middle school might not be for you. A principal once told me, “You have to be a bit crazy to teach middle school.” Maybe so, but I’ll take it. Sure, middle school has it’s wild moments, but I like it!
5. It can be as awkward as T. rex’s arms.
Have you ever seen a picture of a T. rex? While I know that it’s the fiercest of the dinosaurs and the scariest one in Jurassic Park, if you really think about it, a T. rex is a perfect representation of middle school. Here is this ultra-scary giant reptile with 12-inch teeth and tiny, tiny arms, and huge feet. What an awkward hot mess!
Middle school is as awkward as T. rex’s arms. You remember when you were in middle school, don’t you? Teaching middle school, I have seen some of the most awkward dating situations, friendships, group projects, school dances—the whole nine!
6. The emotions can be intense.
Oh, the emotions of a middle school child. Lord. This here is … whew! They’re really something. Teaching middle school is also dealing with tears, adolescent anger, and broken and mended friendships.
It is a roller coaster. It’s a wild ride. It’s a park filled with dinosaurs!
7. You must be resourceful.
To make it out of Jurassic Park alive, you have to be crafty and smart. This is par for the course in teaching middle school. To make it as a middle school teacher, you have to have great classroom management, be clever about how you teach content, and figure out a way to navigate the emotions, awkward moments, the weird smells and all. All in all, to make it through your middle school Jurassic Park, you have to be resourceful.
Do you teach middle school? Come find others like you in our Facebook group WeAreTeachers Chat.
Also, check out our article on how to teach middle school in 49 Steps.