This week, we’d like to welcome guest blogger Rachel Vail, YA author of over 30 books, including, most recently, Unfriended. Rachel recently wrote an essay for the Huffington Post on what middle schoolers wish parents knew. Here’s her version for teachers:
1. I was not trying to get attention by falling off the chair. I am approximately infinity inches bigger than I was yesterday and I just lost track of how to balance. I felt like an idiot so I made falling into a joke. Crying was the other choice. And I’d rather cut off my arm than cry in school.
2. I did that homework. I am almost positive I did it. Getting it from done to folder to backpack to school to you is like seven extra homeworks. That is too many. It’s also possible I forgot to do the homework. I honestly have no idea where my planner is. Or maybe the homework was completely confusing and if I asked for help people might think I am stupid now when that used to be my best subject.
3. That time I called you Mom was the most humiliating moment of my life. It’s one thing in second grade but middle school? Ugh. How does this stuff still happen to me?
4. When you force us to get up—do stuff, act it out, test our ideas—it wakes us up and makes the lesson so much more fun and easy to remember.
5. Sometimes I just can’t focus. I’m buzzy, jumpy, pumped with electricity. Somebody suddenly looks distractingly attractive, across the room, which is fully that other person’s fault, not mine. Or I don’t get what we’re discussing and the pain of not understanding is so excruciating I just have to take a break from paying attention.
6. It feels awesome when you notice something special about me. When you value a skill or interest of mine, you give me a route in to subjects I didn’t think I’d like—and make me feel like I have something worth sharing.
7. What you tell me about myself matters way more than I hope you know. When you tell me I am something—smart, brave, kind, stupid, a trouble-maker, creative, a writer, a mathematician, funny, hard-working—I believe you.
8. I like it when you’re sarcastic but not when you’re harsh. When you say something ironically and I get it, I feel smart and mature. But when you’re mocking in a sharper way, it feels mean and a little scary.
9. Respect me. There are lots of things I already know about myself. Some I want to talk about, A LOT, and it means so much to me when you find time to include me (and it) in class. But lots of other things about me, I’m not ready to discuss, and especially not in class.
10. If you call on me and I am flat-out wrong, please don’t humiliate me. I’m already praying for a hole to open up in the floor and swallow me. It’s hard for me to believe that not knowing isn’t shameful but is instead a good starting point for learning. Help me.
And one bonus extra thing: You are suddenly one of the most important adults in my whole world. How you respond to me affects everything. Please be tough. Please be gentle. Especially when I am neither.
Rachel Vail is the award-winning author of more than 30 books for young people. Her novels for teens include UNFRIENDED, IF WE KISS, KISS ME AGAIN, LUCKY, GORGEOUS, BRILLIANT, and the Friendship Ring series. For elementary school kids, there’s the Justin Case series. Rachel lives in New York City with her husband, their two sons, and a tortoise named Lightning. Learn more at rachelvail.com/unfriended