I began my teaching career in a sixth grade classroom. I remained entangled with these capricious, prepubescent, creatures for many years. I even went to the mountains with them year after year, to experience Outdoor Science School. Together, we went on many forced marches, (I believe they called them hikes.) I knew them well. Whenever friends expressed their admiration for someone who was willing to take them on, I responded with, “Oh, they are just tall kindergarteners.” They had many redeeming qualities. They got my jokes. They said and wrote amusing things.
I saved some of their written work, when I wasn’t too harried to remember to put them in my “save” file. I especially enjoyed their little bickering notes that they passed while they were supposed to be listening to me. I took notes from them without missing a beat, as I talked on about Lake Titicaca or some other riveting subject.
(Whose idea was it to put Lake Titicaca in the sixth grade curriculum, anyway? Probably the same person who thought, “screw” would be a good spelling word to include on their list.) When all is said and done, it’s a wonder they ever heard a word I said, with all the social trauma that was afoot.
Here are some notes I confiscated. I am leaving the spelling intact even though it causes my spell check considerable anxiety.
“Dear Natalie, How come you were making fun of my sister, bicas it rilly hurt my fillings?”
Put a star on one choisce.
Bicas I felt like it Bicas I hate you
I thought it was nice of Heather to simplify Natalie’s reply.
And then there’s this inconsistent note.
I am not your friend enymore. Sighn, Chris.
P.S. Write back.”
This is from the “What grade am I teaching, anyway?” file.
“Kathryn, Listen, I’m sick and tired of tagging along at your feet and wanting to go back out with you. I’ve gone out with people who are Miss America compared to you. (Not anyone at this school.) If I could describe how much I like you, I’d say it’s smaller than a dam flea’s toe. Signed, Pist Off
And her answer:
It was all a lie! I don’t care if you’ve gone out with other girls better than me. You just wanted to kiss with me and then put me down! If you want to be friends with me, fine. If not then, FINE! K.
Wow! Sixth grade angst. Here’s more from the same “couple.”
“Did you have fun yesterday? What do you think you’re going to say to Ann? I’ll talk to you next recess and I’ll sit with you at lunch, OK? Do you think you know who wrote that in the alley?” Jeremy
“I have practically nothing to say! I thought you loved me. What about that lip service at your house Sunday? That didn’t mean anything, did it?! Do you love Lizzy, the SLUT? Write back.” K.
“Well, if you feel it meant nothing, then it must mean Split City?? Or what?
No I don’t like Liz. Everybody says she likes me! That doesn’t mean I like her. You’re saying Sunday meant nothing. You’re saying our relationship means nothing! So, you get all spaced just because someone likes me??” Your exx, Jeremy
I think I recall being excited that this stormy twelve-year-old “going out” couple used relatively good spelling and grammar.
Then there was this threatening note.
Dear Annette, (UGLY), You better stop telling rumors about me or I will personally come and kick your butt. (And what a big one you have.) I will get ten of my friends and we will all take turns kicking your butt. Your Enemy Forever, H. I.
Missy, I akchully hate you. Do not ever talk to me again. You Told Ann that I was a witnis that she is going with Mike and Ray both. I do not know anything about it. Do not ever sign my name on a piece of papper without me even knowing about it!!!! You are putrid.
PS. If you can give me a good reason why you did it, I will forgive you. Write back.
In the sixth grade, apparently all you need is a good reason to do or say stupid things. Too bad that doesn’t work for adults. Just think, all Governor Blagojevich would have to say is, “But I had a good reason!”
I spent a lot of time arbitrating hostilities. For years I sat them down when they were feuding and said things like, “And how did that make you feel?”
and, “Would you want her to do that to you?”
and, “Friends don’t treat each other that way.” Bla, bla, bla.
There is so much day-to-day drama and crying in the bathroom at that age.
When I noticed that I was responding to their social problems with, “Get over it. It’s time for math class,” I decided it was time to switch to third grade.
Then came, “Sheila and Jessica won’t play with me any more, and they called me a Baby, and they are telling everyone to hate me.” Sigh