Friday, June 3, 2011

New Schools, Old Memories

Well, I think I’m finally past the flashbacks.

Yesterday was Orientation day down at Mighty Clever Guy Middle School, where Tabitha will be attending in the fall, so we and the rest of the parents of fifth-graders similarly attending were there. The principal and a random assortment of staff gave a short presentation involving PowerPoint slides and comforting generalities, and then we got to go on a tour of the building, which is pleasant and well maintained if something of a rabbit warren.

And suddenly, years of carefully constructed oblivion were erased in an instant.

Junior high is an awful thing to do to people. And calling it “middle school” – taking away the 9th graders and adding in the 6th graders – doesn’t change the fact that you have a building full of kids whose hormones have begun to kick in but who haven’t quite figured out how to manage them yet. Elementary kids don’t have the hormone problems. High school students have generally adjusted to them, at least as well as they’re going to. But junior high? A mosh pit of awkwardness, plus homework.

I went to a junior high severely lacking in basic vowels. Bala Cynwyd Junior High (you could always tell the new kids by their attempts to pronounce the name) was a brick donut three stories tall that was in the process of being transformed into Bala Cynwyd Middle School when I was going there. It too was a pleasant, well-maintained building – though not really much of a rabbit warren, since if you kept going in a single direction you’d end up back where you started. The only tricky part to finding things was making sure you were on the right floor, and since the only things on the bottom floor were the shop classes most of the time you had a 50-50 chance of being right.

This was a saving grace more times than you'd think.

Of course, if you were looking for the shop classes, odds were you were late. We only had 3 minutes between classes, and the stairs were crowded. The only detentions of my public school career were because of my chronic inability to make it to woodshop on time. Not that I had a great deal of incentive to do so – the woodshop teacher was a buzz-cut martinet whose rigid standards were probably necessary to keep a room full of 7th-graders from mincing themselves into bite-sized pieces on the power tools but which nevertheless made the whole experience rather unpleasant. To this day I have no real use for tools of any description. Kim is the tool person in our house.

I spent two years in that building, generally keeping as low a profile as I could. I made some good friends along the way, and eventually figured out how to keep all the various hormones in check.  I even got most of my homework done.

And in the fall, Tabitha gets to go through the process herself.

It’s a big step, going from Not Bad President Elementary to MCGMS, but every journey has a few of those. And for all the weirdity of junior high, it’s got its high points. Yes it does.  And I'll think of them soon, just give me time.

Good luck, Tabitha.

You’ll understand about the flashbacks eventually.


Anonymous said...

I have a few things to say

1. The name of the middle school is really hard to pronounce

2. The thought of me leaving NBPE and going to MCGMS is kinda scary

3. And at the same time it is exciting

4. Last but not least thank you all for reading the posts about me and commenting. I will see you in MCGMS.

Tabby typing

Anonymous said...

P.S. The middle school I was talking about in #1 is Dad's.

Again, Tabby typing.

TimBo said...

I remember Central Junior High in 1970. It seems that too many students showed up and they were short a home room teacher so they had to scramble to find someone. They made the mistake of telling us that was what was going on. We immediately decided that when Mr. Goodbun was hired he must be a second string teacher, otherwise why wouldn't he already have a job?

We tried to make his life hell, but Mr. Goodbun had a lot of character and stood strong against the attacks. He completely intimidated us when we tried a sit in (this was in the early 70's and such things were considered appropriate, at least by us). He ignored the class newspaper we published slandering him and a lot of other more minor harassments.

His put an end to it all though after the entire homeroom class (except prissy Judy Wood) signed a petition to get rid of him (also a bunch of grade 8's & 9's signed who didn't even take any of his classes). Standing up in front of the class holding the petition up in the air he announced that now that he had our signatures on this document he could present it as evidence to our parents. If any of us caused further problems he would meet with ALL of our parents and tell them what was going on. We pretty much policed ourselves after that. A sweet lesson in blackmail.

I learned a lot from Mr. Goodbun and I still tremble in fear when I meet someone of Junior High School age, though I'm sure Tabitha is a sweet girl and wouldn't think of being as cruel as we were.

David said...

Thanks for the story! You know, as a teacher I have to side with Mr. Goodbun - good for him. And a valuable lesson, taught fairly cheaply.

Junior high is a cruel age.