Seeing Myself in Seventh-Graders

I am 55 years removed from my year as a seventh-grader at Williamstown (WV) Junior High. That means I could get the senior citizen discount simply from the time I’ve lived SINCE seventh grade. Things were different back in 1966…and yet they weren’t much different at all.

Oh, yes, there weren’t the “devices” that kids have today. I watched an episode of The Andy Griffith Show last night where Floyd, Barney, and Andy were bemoaning all the new devices that were invading their lives. Opie walked by about that time holding a transistor radio next two his ear. “See, what did I tell ya!”, said Barney.

I wonder what they’d say today as Johnny comes to school “all hooked up” with his ear AirPds and iPhone? What would they say about the $1,000 he is displaying in order to listen to some group I’ve never heard, whose name could also be an assault on the advancement of correct spelling?

Anyway…as I survey the hallways, classrooms, and athletic fields of Timberview Middle School, I see the faint image of myself leaking through the personalities and insecurities of the students. Back in the day I was a 4’8″ skinny kid who wore eyeglasses and had a buzz haircut. That year I had been the quarterback on the Williamstown “B” Squad that was the equivalent of today’s Pop Warner competition. I was so short I couldn’t see over the offensive line. If we did a pass play, I pitched it back to Tommy Station, my fullback, who then threw the pass. My voice resembled a baby robin squealing to his mama for a worm. But I was fast!

In other words, I was a mixture of uncertainty, self-doubts, potential, and constantly being misjudged by others. You know…the kid on the playground who gets picked last when teams are chosen, but then zooming by the competition.

I walk by kids at TMS who are present-day carbon copies of that. They’d been doubted for so long by their peers and instructors that some of them have come to believe they have no talent or any possibilities for success. They’ve come to believe they are mediocre, destined to be labeled as “C” students in the classroom and standing on the sidelines of the athletic field.

I can remember my own “settling”, being convinced of the impossibilities of possibilities. I don’t remember anyone at school telling me the importance behind the subjects we were learning. They were just “filler facts” and information to make sure our lives were occupied from 8 AM to 3 PM. School was what you did, not part of shaping what you were to become.

I was one of those students who tried to go to the restroom or get a drink of water in as many classes as possible, a hall-wanderer to gain a few moments of relief from the lesson of the day about dangling participles, latitude and longitude, and subtracting a negative number from a negative number.

And so I see myself now in the kids, unsure of who they are and, in some cases, frightened of who they might become.

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