Stepping out from my Dad’s red sedan, I grab my smoothie and bookbag, closing the door behind me. I don't dare to look back as he drives away. I’m feeling so mortified that he even drove me here in the first place. I walk into the herd of other eighth graders, desperately looking for one of my friends to talk to. If I don't, people will think I’m weird and a loser. The cool Fall breeze makes me shiver more than it ought to, even though my Dad made me wear a Winter jacket despite my pleas to not. It’s just not cool. I feel a million eyes on me as I peer frantically for somebody to talk to. Thankfully, the bell rings to signal everyone can enter the building, and the social pressure (and eyes) are taken off of me. I walk inside the school and stumble into my first hour, American History. I take my assigned seat, and watch my classmates trickle in. It’s not too long before the bell rings again, and my academic day begins. Today, I learn what Manifest Destiny was, and the goal to make America an empire from sea to shining sea. The day drags on, and each 45 minute class seems to last an eternity. I learn how to make a spreadsheet in Computers 101, how to craft an argumentative essay in Language Arts, and the difference between qualitative and quantitative data in Science.
Each 45 minute period, it felt like a different part of my brain is working independently, a separate piece of the machine going on overdrive and then being left in the cold. There seemed to be no overlap of the subjects, as each taught different types of competence that did not cross over into the other. Some classes used formal testing that showed you knew the specific set of skills, others used projects or papers, and it felt that I was being pulled in every direction trying to show proficiency in every way and form. There was no unity.
At lunch, I take my seat next to a few of my closest friends. We mainly talk and find it very difficult to find enough time to take a bite of our sandwiches, chew, and swallow before we find the need to scream our input into the conversation. Eventually, the topic takes a turn for the more serious, and one of my closest friends, Alma, complains about her Language Arts grade. “I got a B on the summative paper, how am I supposed to get an A in the class now?” she sighed.
“Dude, it's only a B, don't stress it.” said Camryn rolling her eyes
“I got a D,” laughed Emily, “you’re fine.” Alma laughed along nervously, obviously still upset but trying to laugh it off. I put my hand on her shoulder and squeeze it, giving my solidarity to her without saying much. She gives me a warm glance and a small smile. We are close enough where we don't need to say anything and we can still communicate. I can relate to Alma, as we both are high achievers. But in a middle school world where we are being pulled every which way, it makes us feel like failures when we do poorly in a class. My Mom tells me all the time that nobody is perfect at everything, but when you get straight A’s in all your classes, it makes it obvious, and arguably more painful, when you get a B as opposed to doing average in all your classes. All the information from my classes is disorganized, each its own individual entity. All eight subjects all need different studying methods for a dynamic learner such as myself. I review everything I’ve done throughout the school day, spending about 20 minutes on each subject to be prepared for next class. Teachers always say that 20 minutes a day isn't that much, but for eight classes, it ends up a little over two and a half hours every single day.
After lunch, we go out for recess. My friends and I are the only girls to play with the basketball hoops, but we don't care. The boys know to leave us alone, especially after we beat them in the beginning of the school year. Recess for us is just a time to forget about everything and just have fun. My older sister who is in high school doesn’t have recess, and to me, that sounds both awful and a crime! We both have to spend seven hours in school, but high schoolers have to spend 20 minutes more than us learning. I say that’s a rip-off. Maybe they should get a longer lunch, or as my sister suggested a 20 minute nap time. I say that sounds incredibly boring because naps are stupid, but she says naps are the greatest. We disagree on a lot of things. The recess chaperone blows her whistle as a signal to get back to class. My friends and I amble to the door, dreading the last two classes.
Our last classes of the day are electives, although they are mandatory electives, which I think is called a hyperbole, or maybe onomatopoeia? I think we are supposed to be learning that in English. Anyways, we simply get to choose what quarter the electives are in. The promises they made in elementary schools that middle school had so much more freedom was a lie, an empty promise. My classes are Art and Tech Ed. I like these classes, as I can create, even if there are very specific guidelines. My big problem is that they just added these rubrics that set these “levels” in major areas of a department, like Art or Science. So, now everything we do in our electives has to somehow relate to these weirdly worded rubrics which are hard to understand. What’s the difference between “exemplary” and “extremely exemplary” work? I have no idea, and neither does anyone else. I think the rubrics are there to remove teacher bias, but with fancy adjectives determining competence from students, I think teachers still grade the same.
Thankfully, I have friends in my Tech Ed and Art, so the time flies by. The final bell rings, releasing me to freedom. I quickly go to my locker, meandering my way through the narrow hallways crowded with people all wanting to go home. I make the choice to not wear my Winter jacket, but rather carry it in my spare arm. As I step out of school, I am cold but fashionable.