Yesterday was BIG. Well, maybe only Big. Possibly just big. I don’t know. It depends on your perspective, I suppose.
Yesterday I took the oldest two (well, all of them, actually) to tour the middle school and meet the principal. They could not wait to see it.
The school is new, about five years old, so the hallways are wide and the ceilings are high, and everything is bright and shiny. This all gives it the appearance of being rather large, but in fact it is a small school. The girls don’t quite see it that way yet.
The main hallway downstairs houses the seventh and eighth grades, with four classrooms per grade, if I’m remembering correctly. There is a small library, a good sized computer lab, a disproportionately huge gym, a nice art room, and a decent sized music room, in addition to the office, also located on the main floor
Upstairs houses the fifth and sixth grades, also with four classrooms each, another computer lab, and . . . I think that was it. A custodial closet and some bathrooms, of course, but that’s pretty much it.
The astute will notice the absence of a cafeteria. That is because they share the cafeteria with the high school, which totally blows me away. My high school, which was not large by an means (about 300 in my graduating class) had three cafeterias, all of which were larger than the one shared by the middle and high schools here (the two schools are connected by a hallway/breezeway type of thing).
So, yeah, small school. But as I said, the girls aren’t seeing it quite that way. To them it seems large and daunting.
As L~ said yesterday, “The idea of going to school seemed fun when we were doing all the back-to-school shopping, but now it just seems kind of scary.”
So today, before going to the county fair (which I really rather enjoy in this county (much less white trash than I’m used to seeing at fairs) (yes, I’m being judgmental) (though the two 11ish-year-old girls walking around smoking were a bit disturbing); but, anyway, a nice fair, so score one for living out in the boonies) . . . before going to the county fair we had lots of discussions on their impending leap from the nest and into the bosom of government schools, tweeny-bopper girls, and boys.
Topics covered included but were not limited to:
Oh my word! They talk about “bases” in The Princess Diaries books? I honestly never figured out what the bases were (except first base is kissing, I think), but GIRLS! I don’t care if the whole rest of the school is running around those bases, whatever they are, YOU DO NOT.
People French kiss because it is fun. I know it sounds gross to you now, and I hope it continues to sound gross to you until you are at least 25, but you asked why people do it, so I’m telling you: it’s fun (though completely inappropriate at your age, and I will personally cut out the tongue of any boy who even attempts to stick his into your mouth). (Okay, so I didn’t actually say that last part about cutting out tongues out loud. Yet).
Our swing set/play ground/ whatever you want to call it seems to be the talk of the county (we met the school/district nurse yesterday and when the principal told her we live in Mrs. T’s old house, she immediately said, “Oh, you are the kids with that fabulous play set! I wondered when we’d be getting the kids that go with that play set in our schools. Isn’t that just great? You must just LOVE that!) so kids might ask you questions or make comments about it. I have no way of knowing if the comments will be of the nice type or of the mean type. Whatever they say about it, if they say anything at all, INVITE them over to play on it. If they say only babies play on swings, tell them your parents play on it sometimes (because we do) and would be more than happy to have them over to play on it, hang out on it, whatever (but not run “bases” on it) as well.
If you find yourself wanting to get to know people but not knowing what to say, ask them questions about themselves. Ask them how long they have lived around here, how many siblings they have, what food from the cafeteria they would suggest, what they like to do for fun outside of school around here (because heaven knows we still need help figuring that one out anyway) what teachers they like the best, what their favorite subject is, whatever. Just show a genuine interest in them. Do not ask what the various bases are.
I know it is scary, I know you are shy. I totally understand. My advice is this: no matter how terrified you feel on that first day, pretend you are an actress starring in a movie about a girl who everybody likes, a girl who is confident, a girl who is nice. Be that girl and don’t let them see how scared you are if at all possible. Middle school kids smell fear and the scent tends to set them off (I speak from painful experience as a shy middle school kid and from painful experience as a middle school teacher). The ensuing feeding frenzy of meanness isn’t pretty; but I don’t want to terrify my girls into being hermits, so I’m trying to gloss over that part. Hopefully this school is full of really nice girls who just had their braces tightened, just started their period for the first time, and are wondering if the boy who sits behind them in homeroom is going to try to get to second base – whatever that is. Really, when you think of it that way, no wonder middle school kids are so mean. It’s a lot of stress and discomfort.
Tomorrow I have no idea what we will talk about. I don’t know what they will ask about (the above highlights of today’s conversations were primarily brought up by the girls themselves). But I’m wondering: what advice would you give to your fifth and seventh grade daughters if they were going to school for the very first time/starting a new school. If you ever switched schools or were home schooled and then went off to school, what do you wish you had known ahead of time?
I mean, I realize I can tell them all kinds of things and it doesn’t mean they will get it. Some things you just have to experience and work though, you know? But still, I want to give them everything I can ahead of time so that maybe something will help them when they need it, and I worry (oh how I worry) that I have not prepared them for this.
And I don’t just mean I haven’t prepared them with pep talks and little bits of advice over the past few weeks, and I’m not speaking of academics. No, I mean that I worry that I have not Prepared them enough. However, I think the specifics of that are best left to a password protected post.
So, again, what advice would you give? This is kind of like cramming for a test since school starts in a week. What should I tell them over this next week? If I could make a little pamphlet or booklet to help them get through this “new school” transition, what would the bullet points be? While I want as much advice as possible here, I am especially interested in hearing from people who can look back at their middle school years and not say, “Thank the lord I wasn’t a chicken, because I was so low in the pecking order I’d be dead now.” How did you survive?
Because I? Barely did.
And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt says hello.