A Letter About Slaying Dragons, I Mean, Middle School Myths

Dear Rising Seventh Grader,

If you’re like I was as an awkward, gangly sixth-grader-going-on-seventh-grader, your palms are sweaty, your furrowed brow indicates an ample amount of apprehension, and your brain is a buzzing New York City intersection teeming with traffic. You can take a deep breath now. Relax. Help is here. Your older siblings, friends, not-friends, and maybe even your parents have been supplying your overactive nerves with a steady stream of white lies. Luckily, I’m here to bust the top four middle school myths for you, so that you can soar to success in middle school.

  1. Middle school is a zoo.

This myth is both fact and fiction. Is middle school a zoo…literally? No. Fact: Middle school is NOT a zoo. We do not house ordinarily wild animals in cages for visitors’ enjoyment. Is it as loud as a zoo at times? Is it entertaining, crazy, unpredictable like a zoo? Absolutely. This myth is not meant to be taken literally, but if you read it as figurative language, as a metaphor (which is a comparison between two things that doesn’t use like or as) then you can extract meaning like freshly squeezed juice from a lemon. (That’s a simile, a comparison which does use like or as.) Though this place may teeter on the brink of chaos, you can always look for a bright side and a reason to make lemonade.

  1. The eighth graders will eat you alive!

Consider this your next lesson in figurative language. Myth #2 is a hyperbole, or an extreme exaggeration. This statement is not meant to be taken literally but serves to make a point. Are the eighth graders as tall and tantalizingly overbearing as skyscrapers? Sometimes. Will they shriek, show off, maniacally laugh in your presence, and call you “Sevie!” to make you feel inferior? Perhaps. However, eighth graders can also be your mentors and friends, directing you to your classroom like a GPS or perfectly passing the soccer ball to you in a pick-up game after school. They may have grown more than you, likely both in height and experience, but you should use this growth to your advantage: learn from the eighth graders.

  1. Some of the teachers live at school.

Ms. A stockpiles granola bars, crackers, and bags of fruit in her desk drawers. Mr. B’s hoodies huddle together in the corner of his class, like napping cats. Mrs. C has a bag of clothes she brings to school every day. Newsflash: these teachers, no matter how crazy your observations, do not live at school. Ms. A stashes secret snacks in her desk for students who forgot or can’t afford lunch. Mr. B hoards hoodies because some students come to school shivering in the wintertime, without a coat to hug them snug and warm. And Mrs C? She stays after school almost every day to coach students in soccer and basketball. She has to be ready. They all have to be ready. These teachers don’t live at school, but they do love their jobs so much it appears they’re living here. Try to love being here as much as your teachers do.

  1. There is a secret pool in the basement!

Let us break this Buy-One-Get-One myth. Not only do we not have a secret pool, but we also don’t have a basement. However, if your imagination is just wild enough, you might be able to write a secret pool into a story, or explore a book from its basement to roof–thoroughly, creatively. In books and in writing, you will find freakishly fantastic, deplorably absurd, exceptionally extraordinary things that reality just can’t show you. Don’t be afraid to risk everything and throw yourself into the wonderful world of fiction.

It can be difficult to differentiate between fact & fiction, between unmistakably real and indubitably myth. The two seem inextricable like peanut butter and jelly. You will struggle to separate the two, to find meaning in new words, and to define your new life in this new place. You will struggle, but you will struggle to success.

I feel confident in you now, Sevie, but first, a final fact: Middle school myths are fire-breathing dragons. (That’s a hyperbolic metaphor.) They’re scary at first, have power to breathe fire, and can scorch everything in sight, but only if you believe in them. If there’s anything you come to middle school with, besides your brain and some bravery, it should be these final words of wisdom: Don’t believe everything you hear the first time.

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From your maybe future teacher,

Ochwoman

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