Slice of Life 1: When the World Hates You

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge. This is my first year participating in SoL! I am excited and optimistic about it! So here goes nothing...

My son is a sixth grader at the middle school I work at this year. It's a whole new adventure having a child in middle school, and at the same school as me! Some days we both ride home in total silence, but this past Monday, he wanted to talk to me about his dodgeball experience in PE. This is his first semester having PE, and he seems to have mixed feelings about it. (I did too in middle school.)

Our conversation started with, "Mom, I think the world hates me."

"Well that's an awful thing to say. Why would you think that?"

"Today in PE we were playing dodgeball. I threw and threw and threw and I never could hit that stupid cone! And then, FINALLY, I hit it. I wasn't even aiming for it; I was throwing it at a kid. But when I hit it, it just tipped the top and it didn't even fall over. I mean, you can blow on those things and they tip over. And it didn't even wiggle! The world hates me." *Heavy sigh*

I decided I'd let him in on a truth that anyone who has been to middle school knows. "Listen, in middle school, the world hates everybody. It's not easy on anyone. Let me tell you a little story from when I was in middle school."

And I shared a story I've never told to anybody. And now, I'll share it with you fine people. Because in middle school, the world hates everybody.

When I was in seventh grade, it was the fashion for girls to wear boxer shorts. So I had this amazing new pair of silk Mickey Mouse boxers. I had a matching T-shirt. I was ready. I would be one stylish 7th grader. Unfortunately, it was April, and my legs had not seen the sun since around September. I told my mom I could not possibly wear my new boxers with such pasty white legs. She helpfully suggested I could try self-tanner.

Looking back on it now, I think she was probably joking. I did not get that. Nor did I read the directions. I did not exfoliate. I did not carefully smooth the self-tanner, making sure to apply sparingly to ankles and knees. I did not think about the fact that it would have been better to try this at night, rather than in the morning before I left for school.

It was not good. Over the course of the morning, my legs began to turn. Noticeably.
Orange-ly. (Is that a word?) By lunchtime, I looked like an orange that had been left in the fridge too long. I was brown in some spots and orange in others. I was adorned with uneven patches of white, like mold on wheat bread.

And finally, to add insult to injury, my spectacular new boxer shorts split right up the seam when I sat down at the lunch table. Flapping in the breeze and showing everybody my white underpants. Thank goodness my new T-shirt was generously sized. The next day I decided I would leave the high fashion of boxer shorts to someone else, and went back to my uniform of jeans and a T-shirt. But the damage was done. I was Mickey for the rest of the week (middle schoolers, thankfully, have short memories). 

Sometimes I wonder why I chose to spend the rest of my life in a middle school. Most people can't wait to leave, and when I tell others that I teach 8th grade, I always get some show of sympathy. But you know what? In middle school, the world hates everybody. So I consider it my responsibility and privilege to love my kids. Why do I teach in a middle school? Because middle school is awful, and I know what it means to have that teacher whose classroom is a place you can escape the horrible, if only for an hour. I teach in a middle school to reassure them that, in my room, they have a place to hide when it feels like the world hates you. 


  1. Bless you for teaching middle school. I taught seventh grade for fourteen years before I moved on to teach high school. I loved those kids. But you are so right--they need a soft place to land at least for awhile each day. I'm glad they have you.

    BTW I'm your Welcome Wagon lady. I'm here if you need anything. Help, advice, inspiration. Whatever you need.

  2. From middle school teacher to another - I so get it! This has been a difficult year for me for many reasons, and this post really touched my heart. Or maybe I should say, it softened it just a little. Thank you!

  3. I have never taught middle school, but my children suffered through it in many ways. Such a hard time for them. I remember telling my kids that there would be times when they just wanted to cry and that was OK. They survived with the help of some fabulous teachers. Thank you for teaching middle school!

  4. Welcome to this wonderful community of writers. So glad that you decided to join us. I could feel your pain along with your son's. That is such a difficult age and yes, I'm sure that the world can be very hateful. I'm sure your kids appreciate you and are glad to be in your classroom. Kudos to you!

  5. You are so right - in middle school, the world hates everybody! I still remember it well, though I would much rather forget it. You are awesome (and I truly mean that!) to teach middle school. But these kids are lucky to have you! Welcome to this writing community and I can't wait to read more of your writing!

  6. Middle school is tough, how lucky the students are to have you to support them. I moved to new states, therefore, new schools in seventh and eighth grade. As a kid, I just thought that is was the move that made life terrible. Now I know better.

  7. Welcome to the challenge! I can tell you that it is my daughter's last year of middle school. As a hs teacher, I have always hated 8th graders and it has been a struggle since day one of 8th grade this year. Kudos to you for writing and teaching ms. I will share this with my daughter!

  8. I taught middle school for 14 years (now I teach high school). Like you, I had some pretty horrible memories of BEING in middle school, but I loved teaching it. My son is also in 6th grade now, and I cringe with some of the stories that come home! And, I remember those boxer short days too. What were we thinking? Thank you for sharing your story!

  9. Middle school is so hard! I was SO relieved when my son finally made it through (he is now a 9th grader.) We had many, many conversations about how much middle school sucks. I love the slow build in this post and the way that your story is embedded in your son's.


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