“You like me…you like me!”
-Sally Fields, in her much-maligned Oscar acceptance speech, 1985
[Post written by Paula Guiler, TomTod core volunteer. Paula is the Librarian for Greentown Intermediate School and Orchard Hill Intermediate School (North Canton City Schools). She was the lead mentor for the Idea X project Duct4Downs and she is now the Lead Mentor for The Homeless Experience.]
I could lie. I could lie right now and you would believe me. I could answer the question, “Why do you like middle schoolers?” with great and noble answers, like, “Because they’re so (fill in the blank) funny, vulnerable, honest, energetic, awkward, amazing, goofy, unloved,etc., etc, etc. All those answers would be true, but they wouldn’t be the truth. The truth is, I like middle schoolers because they like me.
I have never gotten over my own middle school experiences. Never. I was tall. And skinny. And flat-chested. And ugly. I wore glasses. And braces. And I wasn’t allowed to wear bikini underwear or bell bottoms. I still have scars on my hand from when a boy scratched me with his dirty fingernails.
People can tell you how much the world has changed since they were in middle school, and they would be right. The world has changed. Technology alone has made the way the world functions unrecognizable to some. But emotions don’t change. Feelings don’t change. Middle schoolers don’t change.
So because I clearly remember how I felt when I lived through the name-calling, and the paralyzingly embarrassment, I keep those feelings at the surface when I play with middle schoolers. I try to show them that I get them, and then I act like a fool so that they can laugh at me, and at themselves, just a little bit.
And it seems to work. They let me in. Or at least they tolerate me hanging around them. And it heals my middle school wounds, and maybe salves theirs, too.