Have you ever noticed that you use a lot of the same redirections with your middle school students that you do with your feline companion? They don’t call it “herding cats” for nothing! When you break it down, it’s amazing just how much these creatures have in common.
Behold, a “highly scientific” comparative study of everyone’s two favorite animals.
1. They both have destructive habits
The loose threads in your couch cushions and snapped pencils on the floor are both capable of making your blood boil. The only difference? One perpetrator can be reprimanded with a spray bottle.
2. They both LOVE to eat
It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if my cat’s bowl is filled, he’s going to chow down. It’s sort of like the kid in your homeroom who washes down his school breakfast with snacks from home … and then says he’s hungry.
3. They’re always around … until you need them for something
Like cats, some middle schoolers have an impressive disregard for boundaries. I’m picturing a few students who always seemed to materialize as I was closing my door for a meeting, opening my lunchbox, or even IN THE MIDDLE OF TRYING TO TEACH ANOTHER CLASS. These are the same students who were mysteriously absent on test day and impossible to track down when they had overdue assignments. Likewise, my cat spends every night curled up on my lap … unless the nail clippers come out. Then, he’s nowhere to be found.
4. They’re prone to extreme lethargy and intense bouts of activity
Middle school energy levels tend to lean toward the extremes. Some days, you’ve got a room full of kids who are too tired to lift their heads from their desks, let alone participate in an activity. The next day, that same group might be bouncing off the walls with boundless exuberance. It reminds me of a certain someone who can nap in the sun all day, only to have an intense bout of the “zoomies” as soon as it’s time for me to head to bed.
5. Questionable gift-giving
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten some truly moving gifts from my middle schoolers. I’ve also received some unflattering portraits of myself, a single cherry tomato, and a live frog found outside during PE class (“I thought you’d like it since you teach science!”). Luckily, I have yet to have a student present me with a hairball or freshly caught mouse, though I’ve had a few I wouldn’t put it past.
6. Easily distracted
Shiny objects, movement outside the window, an unfamiliar noise, or, god forbid, an insect … good luck regaining either of their attention.
7. Always want to be somewhere they shouldn’t
You know that guilty look when you pass a student in the hall … on the opposite side of the school from the class you know they’re supposed to be in? It’s uncannily similar to the one my cat gives me when he’s spotted on the kitchen counter.
8. You need to clean up after them
I’ll excuse my cat on this one, seeing as he doesn’t have opposable thumbs. My students don’t have such a convenient explanation for the paper scraps and wrappers littering the classroom floor at the end of the day.
9. They need you (even if they won’t or can’t admit it)
Even though they have a reputation as some of the most independent pets, cats really do need their people (again, it’s that whole “no opposable thumbs” thing). And while they may survive without us, most don’t thrive without love and attention. Our students might be equally as unable to articulate it, but they rely on us too. Any teacher who has ever unjammed a locker, provided comfort after the end of a 24-hour relationship, or advocated on behalf of a student knows this to be true.
10. You can’t imagine life without them
As annoying as they both can be, cats and middle schoolers are also some of the sweetest, sassiest, and most hilarious creatures we have the privilege of sharing our days with. I can’t imagine my life without my cat or my students, and honestly, I wouldn’t want to.