Everything about being an adolescent girl is chaotic. I watch the girls I teach moving in whirlwinds of tears, body spray, rolled eyes, and conspiratorial whispers. I watch their self-esteem fluctuate within a fifty-two minute class period based on whether their seat was saved or not, their jeans are the right color, or the number of likes their Instagram post is getting. As a new mom and a teacher of young women, I have mixed feelings about my daughter’s inevitable adolescent years. Here are just a few things I dread and look forward to in the next two decades.
We all knew them. Some of us were them. For most, I think it was a mixture of both. Friendship in the early teen years is so confusing. I have my own memories, one in particular of a mean note being thrown on to my desk when it was my week to be hated. It said I was “conceited” and that I needed to get over myself. There was also an unreasonable amount of commentary about my (apparently insufficient) breast size. I remember girls being shoved off the end of the “cool table” on to the floor by a collaborative effort of little snots.
It is devastating to be disliked, even temporarily, at that age. I see it my classes now; girls who were giggling and talking to each other one day have split off the next, often one left alone and close to tears while the others happily pretend not to notice. I also have my regrets about how I treated some girls. I was never malicious, but indifference is almost as cruel.
The girls (and sometimes boys) who stick it out through the rumors, the heartbreaks, the acne — those are the friends I can’t wait for Maddie to meet. They talk you out of bad crushes, let you borrow clothes, stay up all night telling their secrets and listening to yours (and actually keeping them.) These are the friends that you still talk to after high school. They know your family and your home. I have met some of these amazing girls in my time teaching. Sometimes they are the quieter types who stay out of the drama, sometimes they are the strong opinionated ones who tell off the gossipers and keep their circle tight. You may only find one or two, but they are the ones to remember and hold on to for dear life.
I absolutely dread the middle school crush. The first time you put your heart out there and risk rejection and the first time that rejection comes are some of the most heartbreaking times of a kid’s life. They say that having kids is like having your heart walk around outside your body. Well, I am not excited for when her heart and mine get trampled on by some little pimply-faced jerk. It will come from some terribly impersonal place too, either a note (damn those notes) or nowadays, a text or Facebook message, or the worst, a heartless messenger who thrives on the pain of others (see MEAN GIRLS.)
As an English teacher and total book nerd, I CANNOT wait for Maddie to find her first favorite book, even if it is the latest Twilight-esque bullshit teen drama. It is becoming more and more rare to see the intense readers at the middle school level. Books aren’t falling out of backpacks, pages aren’t as worn and battered when you check something out of the library. But when you see it, it’s something special.
My reason for becoming a teacher was mainly to light that fire under my students; now I can’t wait to light it for my daughter. I’m excited to catch her hiding under the covers with a flashlight, or driving me insane describing EVERY single detail of every chapter (“and then…and then…and then…”). I can picture her in a comfy chair by a window, her eyes absorbing every page. I wish I could pick up The Chamber of Secrets again for the first time, or To Kill A Mockingbird or countless others. I hope we can debate the best series, watch the movies after reading the books and bond over what has been my number one passion for most of my life.
Ugh. That is all.
Teaching has always had its ups (summer, holidays-I kid, I kid!) and downs (FEBRUARY), but now I have a whole new perspective when I enter my classroom each day. These kids are no longer just students that I am here to teach and nurture and discipline; they are also little crystal balls that show me what I have in store for me in the future with my daughter. For that I am grateful. And also, scared shitless.