This was some of the most touching and most difficult interactions I've had. As someone who feels more connected to the kids than some of the adults, it's been such a wonderful time working with some of the most amazing students.
Though we've historically been at a high school and K-8 school, I've had much more of a connection with the middle school kids. If you asked me maybe 5 years ago if I would enjoy working with middle school kids, I would have laughed and said, "Those little brats? They're monsters!"
Now I would say, "Those little bratty monsters? I love them!"
Raise your hand if you hated middle school. *Raises hand*
Okay, I didn't hate middle school. In fact, I don't want to forget about my middle school experience or pretend it didn't happen. But, goodness, I know it was not my favorite time growing up. High school was a much better experience for me, personally.
But working with these kids for the past 5 years has really opened my eyes. Adolescence is a rough age. The least I could do is make it slightly less painful for a couple of kids. It's really a pity that there are very few middle school-focused programs and no funding to back it up, but it's clearly an under-served population.
So, when I distributed the newsletter, I knew that there were some students that I would need to personally speak with. Mainly, I knew that the majority of 7th and 8th graders wouldn't even see the newsletter.
My boss had already started telling students she was seeing individually, and one in particular was having a very difficult time dealing with it. This particular student, who was already fairly attached to the people in the program, proceeded to start throwing things around the office - not really maliciously, but more just for the sake of throwing things. I'm sure he'll be acting out til the very end. And in the very end, we'll be worried about whether he'll be able to make it without someone really advocating for him.
Another student that was seen individually by our interns seemed to take the news in stride. He had read the newsletter, and almost anticipated my coming to check in with him. I reassured him that he would do great as an 8th grader, especially considering that he knew how to look for help (though sometimes that will look more like acting out).
One student that I knew I had to speak with was the leader of this krumping group. They had performed at our show, and we have really stepped up to continue supporting them. Originally, this group was formed as a response to a leadership project. The original leader wanted to raise money for gym and art supplies, and the one way he knew how to raise money was by doing shows. Thus, the school's krumping group was born (I wish I could tell you what their name was....it's hilarious! But, if anyone Googled it, they'd be lead to my blog...not good).
The current leader of the group is an absolute sweetheart, though he gets frustrated at the immaturity of the other team members. But it's clear that he just wants they to do well, but that he's heard too much negativity from others around him.
When I pulled him out of his class to speak to him, I seriously felt like I was about to break up with the kid! So inappropriate, I know! But here's how the conversation went:
Me: Hey *student*, so did you see our newsletter?*tear* I love that kid.
Me: Well, your homeroom teacher probably has it, so you should ask for it if you get the chance. It has some news on it that we announced to the whole school.
Student: Oh, okay. I'll ask him for one later.
Me: So, even though it's on the newsletter, I wanted to talk to you about it personally.
Student: Oh. What's going on?
Me: Well...umm...so.....next year, *organization* isn't going to be here at the *school*.
Student: (Whole affect changes, eyes seeming to glaze a bit) Oh...Why??
Me: Well, do you know how the Boston Public Schools are all losing money? Well, that's basically the same thing. It's budget stuff.
Student: Oh...that's so discouraging. (This is a 7th grader, by the way. Discouraging?? Oy....)
Me: But you know, even though we're not going to be here, I don't want you guys to give up. I mean, you've all come a really long way, and I'm sure there will be other adults in the school who are willing to give you guys a chance. But you have to show them the awesomeness that we see all the time. They only see a little part of you guys. Show them what we see.
Me: So, will you tell the other guys? And I'm serious! You guys are going to be fine next year!
Student: Okay, Cecilia. Thank you.
Later that day, I was looking for one of the adults to speak with her about our leaving. As I peeked into the cafeteria, a couple of 4th graders shouted to me, "Are you leaving??" I honestly have no idea who those kids are. I've seen them before, and I might have stepped into their classes in previous years to deliver newsletters or to talk about student council stuff or they've seen me do stuff for the talent show. But I have no idea really who they are.
After two of them proceeded to hug me and say they'll miss me (I mean...how cute is that?), one of them follows me out of the cafeteria and asks me:
4th grader: What are you going to do now?I then turned the conversation back on what she wanted to be when she grows up. But man, can you believe that? It's honestly mind-blowing how amazing these kids can be. If only we took the time to actually sit there and listen to them or give them an opportunity to shine.
Me: Well, I'm going to look for another job that I like to do.
4th grader: Well...what did you want to be when you grew up?
Me: Hmm...well, I wanted to help people.
4th grader: Oh...you're doing that now!
Me: (trying to hold back the tears) Ya...well, I hope I get to do some more of this stuff somewhere else.
|I wish I could show you in more detail how awesome these kids are.|
I sincerely hope that the middle school will have some sort of support services available to them. They need all the help they can get. I also hope that we've been able to give the students the tools to be able to look for help when they need it.