I had never worked with middle school kids before. When teenagers, between the ages of 15 and 18, come into the room for the writing workshop some saunter in, some are sitting quietly, some are looking bored, and some are still in the hallway yelling to their friends. Once the workshop starts they seem to be listening, but you are not certain. After the workshop ends, they leave, sometimes with a thanks, but most often there is no praise of full thank you, and you are never sure if they even liked you or the class. The motto is: if they are in their seats they like the workshop.
Kids aged 11-13 are different. When they walk into the room it is like a cacophony of chattering. I mean loud. For some reason kids just have to yell when they speak. Like what they have to express is so intense they can not contain their enthusiasm in a tiny low voice. Oh no, their brains are like little bottles rockets, popping off in joyful explosions of expression. My god. It was like a tidal wave of childlike voices and I had a sudden moment of robotic panic, what I now like to call, controled panic. I had to keep telling myself this is not out of control, this is just 11 to 13. I left thinking, now that was work. But even more that, it was work worth the work. I love this age. They are so fun, and I feel more like myself, that I can be wholly myself, and I feel very comfortable as my role as teacher/facilitator in this setting more than any other. Why? Probably because you need to be so direct with them. There is no talking around things. You need to get straight to the point, and be plain and simple in your word choices. Plus they don’t get offended. Of course they do if you are mean, as anyone would be, but when you say, “I need everyone to stop talking so I can hear myself think. Okay, now one voice at a time so we can all hear.” They stop talking (till they get excited). Older teens and adults are different. They can get defensive. “Who does she think she is?” I think adults should tap into their inner 11-year-old from time to time, and chill out with the defensiveness. Just a suggestion.
I love their energy, but man, I have to be ON. I get all of my lessons prepared way ahead of time and have back up fun stuff in case they are extra rambunctious.
I have about five weeks with this group. I really like them. The time passes quickly and their energy is immense. They are like these creative little writing demons.
Oh and they let me know, how they feel about the workshop. “What’s the point of this?” One asked. And another told me she was just here for the food. Hand to my heart, I love ’em.