Posted tagged ‘middle school’

Why Would You Put Gum In Your Armpit?

September 22, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 22, 2018

                             

Middle school is a time of discovery as eleven, twelve, and thirteen year olds enter a new land of educational challenges, physical awkwardness, and unwise decisions. Like the frightened character in the horror movie who decides to open the door to the room where the strange sounds are coming from (and the theatre audience is yelling “Don’t do it!”), middle school kids do things and say things that make us shake our heads in dismay.

Like the boy last year who told his teacher, “I’m getting tired of looking at your face!” It did not go well for him!

Or the eighth grader who thought it would be cool to body surf down the concrete wall in the stairwell! He got about five feet into his journey and then fell over the side, landing on the steps in the lower half of the stairway! 

Ands then there was yesterday when a boy decided to put his chewing gum into his armpit…underneath his shirt! Just as gum gets stuck on the underside of desks for eternity this boy’s armpit was stuck with some Dubble Bubble!

As with the actions of many middle school students the first question that comes to an adult’s mind is “Why?” Why would a student who can understand algebra put bubble gum in his armpit? Was he trying to keep it moist? Did he not know where else to store it and his armpit wasn’t doing anything anyway? Was it a class where the teacher doesn’t allow gum and he thought he could sneak a few chews in from time to time?

And what did this boy, who by the way did have some armpit hair to help create a situation that gives new meaning to the term “bubblicious”, tell his parents? Where did he get the idea that putting gum in his armpit was a good idea? Did he see his dad do it once in the midst of an elk hunting trip?

Is an armpit gum crisis a disciplinary problem that requires the security guard to be called; or a medical situation for the school nurse to handle; or a custodial situation with some stain remover; or a wood shop problem solved with a little bit of sawing…kind of like cutting some small trees down!

It happened on Friday afternoon. For some middle schoolers Friday afternoon is when they get a distorted understanding of American freedom and think anything is okay. For teachers and school administrators Friday afternoon is like the end of a marathon race. Energy is low, muscles are cramping, their cardio system in at its max, but the finish line is in sight! They are stretching for the tape just about to break it and throw their arms up in triumph…and someone comes into the room or office and says “Jimmy wanted to see if he could fit in his locker and now he’s stuck inside it!”

There is the urge to respond with “Well…he will still be there on Monday when we come back!”, but…then the teacher or administrator remembers that their job description includes something like “rescues students from themselves!”

Substitute Teacher Day Off

September 18, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     September 18, 2018

                                    

I did not get a too-early call this morning from Timberview Middle School. No phone ringing at 5:30 with urgency! I get did four phone calls from another school, but I ignored them. It’s gotten to the point where I rarely substitute at any other school besides Timberview. I’m like Andy Griffith in the midst of middle school Mayberry. Everybody knows me there! I coach three sports there, with this being my 18th year of coaching boy’s basketball.

So today is a day off! Yesterday I corralled 7th Grade language arts students the whole day, keeping them focused on verbs, mis-spellings, and the green grass of literature. I’ll giddy up the same herd two days from now. 

Today, however, I’m relaxing…kinda’! When I leave Starbucks this morning I’m going up to the school to take care of a couple of details and surprise a coaching teammate with a cup of Americano with a little bit of cream. She deserves it for having to teach 8th Grade math all day.

Since retiring from being a church pastor close to three years ago (Doesn’t seem possible!) my understanding of “a day off” has been altered. It used to be that Monday was the designated day off after the hyper-speed pace of Sunday. Now it’s whatever day I’m not substitute teaching. 

Could be Monday, could be Thursday, but it’s almost never Friday! 

And what do I do on whatever day it is that I’m off? I think about what’s going on at the school, wondering which students will make unwise decisions and which teachers will be ready to pull their hair out. I’ll wonder what new color of hair will appear in a classroom that day and what 8th Grade girls will look like their jeans were vacuum sealed around them. I’ve noticed- and maybe you have also- that my middle school experiences are filtering more and more into my writing. In the first month of the school year I wrote 7 blog posts related to middle school. Today I’ll write 1,000 to 2,000 words in the third fiction book I’m writing and the story will have been influenced by my recent middle school experiences. One of the two main characters is a 7th Grade boy! That’s what I do on my day off! I write about middle schoolers.

I’ll also eat a more substantial lunch today, maybe a luncheon date with Carol. I won’t need to “wolfe down” a Tupperware bowl containing cottage cheese and cucumber, or a PB&J sandwich while gulping a bottle of water. Today I won’t even have to use a plastic fork!

I’ll be able to talk in a normal voice, use the bathroom when I want to, wear a pair of shorts and a tee shirt, and sit in the swing on our back deck and read Vince Flynn. I’ll be able to enjoy a third cup of coffee on my writing stool- the last stool on the right looking out at Pike’s Peak! I can stop at the supermarket and check out the “day old food” discounted rack and play Words with Friends. I may even run by Penney’s and see if they have underwear on sale!

And in the midst of all those opportunities and “down time” I’ll be thinking about Timberview, like a kid wondering what might happen in the next episode of my favorite action TV series. 

Crazy, I know, but it brings a smile to my face! And I’ll ask myself “Was I that dorky when I was in middle school?” 

Absolutely!

Having A 3 Second Delay For Life

September 15, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          September 15, 2018

                                 

In my growing up years I used to love watching Japanese science fiction movies from the 1950’s and 60’s. Most of them were still in black and white, a bit cheesy, but very entertaining for a ten year old on Saturday mornings before the normal cartoon line-up shows came on, like Johnny Quest.

The plot for some of the films must have been thought up by half-crazed people under deadline duress. Curse of the Mushroom People, Invasion of the Neptune Men, Frankenstein Conquers the World, and Evil Brain From Outer Space are just a few of the films that came out of the minds of some disturbed film folk.

One thing I noticed as I watched these movies was the fact that the dubbing of the sound with the picture was almost always off. Perhaps it was a result of the movie being translated from Japanese into English,  but it was always noticeable. 

The lips were still moving but all the words had already been said. Sometimes it was as much as three seconds. The words of the next dialogue line were being heard, but the picture on the screen was still the previous speaker. 

In later years as I’ve watched some of those old films it has become a feature that amuses me!

The last three days I’ve been substitute teaching seventh graders for a science class. It has made me realize that in this day of apps for everything under the sun there is a need for a “three second delay app!” That is, an app that would allow a person’s common sense to catch up to the words before they are spoken. 

It became apparent amongst the seventh graders because of their tendency to “blurt”, “spew”, and “verbally twitch” without thinking. One student spewed so much nonsense that his own classmates were greatly relieved by his being asked to leave class. Amazingly, no one else needed a three second delay app for the rest of the class. 

Seventh graders aren’t the only ones who need a rewind or delay button, although they would be the main consumers of such an invention. There is a prime market of adults who could use the three second delay as well. With people’s words being recorded on someone’s cell phone and social media, what we say without thinking seems to be coming back to haunt us more and more. 

And whereas, it kind of adds more entertainment value to the viewing of Curse of the Mushroom People, it causes apologies and some serious backpedaling for us today. 

I would have liked that three second delay app back in 1970 when I had taken a young lady to our high school’s homecoming dance. After the dance I took her home and walked her up to her front porch. The porch light was on and as we stood there she asked me if I would like for her to turn the light off. And I said, “No, that’s okay!”

WHAT????????

If there had been a three second delay so that my common sense could have caught up to my words I wouldn’t be reminding myself that I was an idiot that night…48 years later! 

The ‘What Ifs’ of Sixth Graders

September 8, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        September 8, 2018

                      

Squirrels were named after sixth graders! When you’re around sixth graders for very long you just automatically blurt it out. “You’re squirrelly!” And then someone saw a furry looking hyperactive, confused critter climbing the tree in their front yard and he said, “Wow! I’m not sure what that thing is but it’s as squirrelly as a sixth grader so I’m going to call it a squirrel!”

Okay! It probably didn’t happen that way, but it’s a good story, and if you’ve been around sixth graders for very long you understand how plausible the story sounds.

Yesterday I was teaching sixth grade physical education. It’s kind of like filling thirty balloons with air and letting them go all at the same time.

We were teaching the students a new game, which was not complicated to understand. It involved trying to get all of the people on one team to the other end of the field without having the flags they wore around their waists pulled by someone from the other team. 

Simple, right? 

The other teacher I was partnered with that day explained the game thoroughly and then said the words that she wished she could take back, the words that cause body tremors and sweating. 

“Are there any questions?” Hands shot up in the air like 4th of July bottle rockets.

“What if…someone doesn’t mean to fall, but he does? Does that mean he’s frozen until he gets freed by one of his teammates?”

“Yes.”

A future lawyer. “What if…the person who falls has been tripped, pushed, or in a collision that results in his tumble? Would he be held liable for the consequences of the action, or would you take into consideration extenuating circumstances…AND, is there an appeal process in place for the defendant?”

My teaching colleague has a blank stare for a moment. “We will consider each action individually.” The student starts to ask a followup question, but my colleague ignores her and looks at the body attached to another raised hand.

“What if…I’m running down the field and my flag falls off just because? Can I just put it back on? You know…like the wind just blows it off of me, because that wouldn’t be fair!”

“If your flag falls off because of the wind or as the result of some other act of nature you can put it back on and resume the game.”

The future attorney is raising her hand and waving it wildly as she considers her case before the Court of Sixth Grade PE Appeals. The teacher contines to ignore her, and turns her attention to a squirrel sitting on the top row of the bleachers.

“What if…someone calls my name and when I look to see who said my name a different person from the other team runs by and pulls my flag off?”

“Then you are frozen until a teammate frees you.”

“Ahhh!” he responds with a look of agony.

Redheaded girl with a bored look wishing she was in math class. “Do we have to play?”

“Yes.”

Blonde boy who has a tendency to want to always say things that makes his other squirrelly classmates giggle. “What if…someone’s shorts rip right down the middle and their underwear is showing?” Giggles from the gathered.

“If that happens they will be out for the rest of the game.”

“That’s not fair!”

“By the time they go back inside, change shorts, and come back out again, our class period will be over.”

Future prosecutor’s hand going berserk. 

“Is this question relevant?”

“Yes, absolutely!”

“Okay! Last question because we aren’t going to have that much time to actually play the game.”

“I’m not throwing any accusations or inferring that a certain person, who will remain anonymous, would do this, BUT…what if someone from the other team made some offensive remarks about another person in the course of game play? Would that be grounds for, so to speak, legal action?”

My colleague looks at her with a facial expression that communicates “No comment!’

“Okay! Mr. Wolfe’s class is red and my class is yellow! Let’s play!”

And the squirrels rush the field to play the game for the one reason we’ve planned it for. That they will run around like crazy for the next fifteen minutes!

Being Taught By Special Needs Students

September 1, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            September 1, 2018

                               

I was asked to substitute teach one day this past week in the classroom that serves as the base for the students at our middle school who have special needs. As the day went on I realized that I was the student and they were my teachers. 

They treated me special!

One young lady let me join her in the morning for a few minutes of lego-building before she headed to class. I built a Starbucks drive-thru, which she flashed a smile about, but then threw me a look that told me that I needed to get back on task and stop goofing around.

A boy drew me into being a customer at his pretend restaurant, but when I didn’t put both of my legs squarely under the table he gave them a slight shove to get them where they are suppose to be…before taking my order of a pretend double cheeseburger and onion rings. A couple of minutes later when I had gone to the pretend restroom and then back to the table he repositioned my legs once again under the table like they are suppose to be.

Another young man drew an amazing picture of a mountain nature scene. His classmate flashed a “dab” for me a few times and explained to me what each of the three rubber snakes draped around his neck were with accompanying vital information that might save my life if bitten. 

Towards the end of the day the lego-building student “instructor” was working on math problems. She pulled another chair up close to her and smiled at me. 

“Would you like me to sit down?” She smiled, nodded her head, and patted the seat. Since my lego-building skills were suspect in her eyes, maybe I also needed math help.

Let me interject here! The para-professionals who work with the students are awesome. They guide them towards success in its various forms, whether that be improving their organizational skills, completing assignments, or relating to the other 1,200 students in the middle school. Every day is punctuated with the extreme emotions of tears and laughter. 

The students who take on the role of “peer partner” during each class period of the day are just as incredible and important. They walk with their students to class, help them conquer difficulties, and bond with them in lasting friendships. 

Last year an 8th Grade special needs student was on the school basketball team. Coach Achor told him he would play in a game sometime during the season. His anxiety was evident as he faced the possibility of that, but then the day of the game arrived. All of the special needs staff- para-professionals, teachers, peer partners, and other special needs students- were there. When he went into the game they all cheered. 

And then when he made a basket they all cheered…and cried!

Last week I went back to school for a day to be taught. By 2:45 I had learned a little bit about acceptance, grace, the love of life, and the humor hidden in the simplest moments of life. 

The next day after that I was the guest teacher for 8th Grade science. The student who had drawn the incredible picture of nature was in one of my classes. 

“Hi, Mr. Wolfe!”, he said immediately upon entering the class. “What are you going to do this weekend?”

“Well, (his name) I’m going to do some running, some reading, some relaxing, and some writing.” I should have added, “In fact, I’m going to be writing about you!”

Why I Substitute Teach

August 18, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    August 18, 2018

                                     

School began again this past Wednesday in our area! At Timberview Middle School four hundred or so sixth graders waited outside the doors that first day. Seventh and eighth graders came back on Thursday.

The school staff waited inside the doors and cheered them on as they entered the building for their first middle school experience.

And I was one of the cheering high five-ing staff members!

I’m a substitute teacher, but had been asked to teach the first three days of school by a teacher back in April because of a family wedding she would be attending out-of-state.

Other staff members asked the question: “Mr. Wolfe, subbing already?” Yes, in fact, out of 13 August school days I’m scheduled to sub 10 of them for 7 different teachers. 

I often have people ask me why I substitute teach? Am I a masochist? Is it the appropriate level for how mature I act? Will no one else hire me? Am I reliving my junior high days?

Truthfully, I substitute teach because I enjoy it! I’m serious! One of the best months of my life was when I was asked to do a long-term 7th Grade Social Studies teaching position. I had to work like crazy that month preparing for each day of instruction and interaction, but I was a bit sad when the new teacher was hired. She’s a great teacher (who I have subbed for several times since!), but I missed the kids who I was privileged enough to teach, challenge, and converse with each day. 

That experience has probably influenced my feelings on substitute teaching more than anything else. It imparted confidence in me and brought me to the point where each school day was seen as being an opportunity to influence and educate, as opposed to enduring and dreading.

I don’t substitute teach because we need the income. We’re okay regardless of whether I decide to take the month off or appear in a classroom every school day of that month. The pay, in my mind, is simply a side benefit for doing something I enjoy doing. 

I substitute teach because of the relationships with staff, parents, and students. A few of my best friends are now teachers, who are on staff at Timberview. One of them has been on two mission trips with me. I officiated at the funeral service for another teacher friend who succumbed to cancer two years ago. 

I substitute teach at middle school because it’s an impressionable time for the children who enter there and three years later exit as teenagers. It’s an uncertain and confusing part of their life journeys. I remember my junior high days. They were not that pleasant. I was the smallest kid in my whole class. Other boys in my eighth grade class were beginning to sport facial hair and armpit hair that was dense and long enough to take a weed whacker to. I didn’t even have peach fuzz! I was still like a facial hair desert, void of signs of adolescence!

As a sub I have the opportunity to give a word of encouragement, bring a class to laughter, and grace students with nicknames. I have the opportunity to make a school day more than just books and study sheets. I’m able to make it an experience.

It’s a bit flattering to hear good things being said about me. I’m scheduled to teach 8th Grade social studies for two weeks at the end of October and beginning of November. The teacher came up to me on Thursday and told me she had shared with her classes that I’d be subbing for her during that time. 

“They were so excited!”

Wow! Putting the pressure on me! But, you know something? I’m also excited! I am a blessed man!

First Day of Cross-Country Practice

August 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     August 14, 2018

                            

It was an optional practice day so the other coaches and I were a bit surprised that about 25 middle school students showed up for it. “I thought there would be four or five!” exclaimed Coach Barry.

But here they were! About 25 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders wondering what the next hour and a half would hold for them, their lungs, and their legs!

“I’m Coach Wolfe, and it’s great to see all of you here this afternoon!” 

Some smiled back at me.  Others looked down at the ground like they feared a sudden sinkhole would open up and swallow them down into the depths. One girl with shaking knees was hoping for a sinkhole!

A hand shot up. 

“Coach Wolfe, what will we be doing in our cross-country practices?”

“Well, let’s see! We’ll watch some Justin Bieber Youtube videos, have Fudgesicle eating contests, and finish each day with some tug-of-war competitions.”

He looked at me in disbelief.

“No, that’s a different sport I’m thinking of! In cross-country we’ll…RUN! We’ll run long, we’ll run fast, we’ll run easy and hard, up hills and down hills, on paths through the woods and sidewalks around the neighborhoods. We’ll run down to 7-11 and get Slurpies and to Boriello Brothers and get pizza…okay, strike the pizza idea! Basically, we’ll run in a variety of ways!

“Coach Wolfe!” This time the girl hoping for a sinkhole had her hand up.

“Yes.”

“How far will we run?”

“Some days further than others. Roughly three miles a day.” Her eyes opened as wide as the sinkholes she hoped for.

“Just three miles?” asked a new sixth grader. “I’ve been on a running team that competes in the nationals each year and we usually do six to seven miles a day.”

“Go for it! When we get done with our practice you can do a Forrest Gump and just keep running!”

A young man with blonde hair and a heavy dose of anxiety raised his hand halfway and looked at me.

“Yes, sir!”

“I just moved here from Texas. Do you think I’ll have a hard time with the altitude change?”

“Yes.”

“Oh!” he replied with a facial expression that resembled when the time his mom told him Santa Claus doesn’t ride in a sleigh.

“It will take you a while, but you’ll get used to it.”

“Thank you,” he said as he bit his lower lip.

“Each of you is at a different point than everybody else. Some of you have been running since you were about the size of a ladybug and others are brand new. Your coaches will seek to help each of you get better as a runner and also understand how to run. We’ll expect you to work hard, but we also want you to have fun!”

At the mention of having fun a few eyebrows went up, like I was saying that it was fun to go to the doctor and get a flu shot, or it was fun to wear underwear inside-out and backwards! 

But it will be fun! In fact, today…Day 2 and another optional practice before the first official practice on Wednesday…I’m getting popsicles for the end of practice. For a popsicle I bet the one young lady would even jump over a sinkhole! 

And I’ll high five each of them and joke with them and then send them all home thinking, “This is going to be awesome!”