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The Problem With Sixth Graders

Today I am subbing for sixth graders at an area middle school. The class is unique in this county as the subject taught is “technology.” The teacher is brilliant man I have a great deal of respect for, though he has already announced that he will be retiring at the end of this school year. He will leave a vacuum when he goes since no one else is qualified to teach his class.

What strikes me about this class is how immature sixth graders are. When I was in school, sixth grade was still a part of elementary school. Ever since the change to middle schools, sixth graders have been moved out of elementary school an into middle school, yet there are times I wonder if they wouldn’t be better off with the younger kids. I am not a developmental psychologist and I am sure there were solid reasons for making the change. Still, there is a big jump in maturity between sixth and seventh graders and good teachers make sure they know how to handle both.

Because I am in the technology lab, there are a lot of different work stations with walls separating them that are about five feet high. As a class, the teacher has assigned us a movie to watch and most of the kids are seated strategically in front of the big flat screen TV. (The teacher has supplied this, not the school board.) I hate simply showing movies and would be much happier teaching, but this is “Technology” and while I am better than average in that area, I have no idea what the teacher is working on or how I might be able to help. I can’t blame him for leaving us with a movie.

One young man has refused to sit with the others, which was my first clue that he is up to no good. Sure enough, I see his head peek over the top of the work station every few minutes to see if I am watching. I have positioned myself to be able to see him clearly, so each time his head pops up, my eyes were already on him.

After several exchanges like this I begin to wonder what he would do if he did not see me looking back. I quietly walk around the room in such a way that he cannot see me and position myself where I can clearly see him from behind. Sure enough, his little head peers over the top of the wall and he seems delighted that he doesn’t see me at my usual station. His evil plan, whatever it might be, is beginning to take shape. However, he is very cautious and wants to know exactly where I am. He begins to look around the room looking for some sign of where I might be. At last, now completely turned around, he spots me and nervously starts to laugh.

I had to admit, it was pretty funny, though I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching a two year old instead of a twelve year old. Granted, not all sixth graders act this way; some are remarkably mature for their age, though they tend to be the rare exception. Many, like this young man, have a great deal of maturing to do.