Friday, December 16, 2011

Year 2: Week 15-The Best Of 8th Grade Girls

When people think of 8th grade girls more often then not they think of these young women at their worst: catty, self-absorbed, immature, irrational and melodramatic. While this age and gender group has the potential for all of these things, so do people in almost every stage of life.

Do 8th grade teenagers have stronger tendencies towards these negative traits? I guess so, but more of this has to do with their physical and emotional development far more then any mean-spiritedness. When these traits emerge they are annoying, but they don’t really bother me because their potential for good is so much greater.

Over and over, my 8th grade girls have shown me great maturity and understanding as young adults, like this last week when three of my them visited my 3rd grade music class.

Because of a change in schedule my 8th grade Band met at the same time as one of my 3rd grade classes (I teach 3rd & 5th grade general music and 6th and 8th grade band). I saw some of my 8th grade girls earlier in the day and I mentioned this conflict to them and how they were going to have a substitute in band. They asked if they could come to 3rd grade music instead of band. I hesitated because the 3rd graders were preparing for their holiday performance. At the same time, I figured this might be fun, so I told them to come join me with the 3rd graders.

My school is a JK-12 school. There’s a Big Brothers and Big Sisters program which assigns high school seniors to different classrooms as a community building activity. This is fun and both the younger students and the seniors do really well with this and I was hoping that my 8th grade girls would bring that same positive energy to my 3rd graders and they really did.

When my 8th graders came in, my 3rd graders were very excited and they all wanted these guests to sit with them. We did a couple activities. One in which we went around the circle and had to come up with an animal and food as a call and response exercise. We practiced some instrument parts and went through the song for the upcoming performance.

Throughout all of the activities the 8th graders participated happily and engaged in a positive and appropriate way with my other students. They listened carefully to things the 3rd graders were saying, they didn’t any level of “I’m too cool for this” and showed a genuine interest in not only the class but the 3rd graders as people.

The 3rd graders were absolutely adorable as they tried to teach the 8th graders how to play and sing the songs. They were very interested in explaining how things in the class worked and their desire to involve the 8th graders showed a positive instinct include others and share what they knew.

Looking at my 8th graders interacting with my 3rd graders, I felt very proud.  Every time I looked at one of my 8th graders working with some 3rd graders I couldn't help but smile.  It wasn't just at the cute-ness of the situation it was the fact that these girls got it.  They understood what this opportunity could mean for the 3rd graders and their instincts were to connect and be positive.

I'm not claiming that I understand 8th grade girls, but I do know that there's something special about this group and if you look at them with open eyes expecting the best, sometimes you'll be amazed at what you see.

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