5% of Middle Schoolers

Today in school I was teaching about tone in your writing. How to select the correct words to create your desired tone. This, in turn, creates the right mood with your reader. When you are able to command tone, you are essentially able to command the emotions people experience. Powerful stuff. My students ate it up.

I was talking about how we can use the same words but in different ways to create different tones (tomorrow they will get a word bank of vocabulary words and they’ll have to write one paragraph using those words that creates one tone, and then write a second paragraph using the same words but creating a different tone). Today I thought I would show them visually what I was talking about. I found this video on YouTube of the original movie trailer for “Mary Poppins,” and then I found a second spoof trailer for Mary Poppins that turned the movie into a horror movie. They used the same songs, the same video footage, but the presentation of the material created a different tone. Just like we can do in our writing. My students continued to eat it up.

By my 3rd class, I felt like a rock star.

Enter my projection screen.

I went to pull down my projection screen during 3rd period so I could play the video clips and I could not get the screen to catch and stay down. I’d pull, and it would go flying back up to the top. I’d pull, it’d go flying. Pull, fly. Pull, fly. At this point, I started laughing at myself. “HELP! SOMEONE HELP!” I yelled out to my students.

Any other class would have died laughing and come to help me out (or at least save me the embarrassment of standing there like a cartoon pulling on a window shade). But this particular class is *special.* I’ve always thought people have the wrong idea about middle school kids. 95% of them are cool, down to earth, respectful, and easy going.

The other 5% were in my 3rd class this morning.


These kids are too cool for school, and so instead of laughing along with me, they started snickering behind my back. Then when I’d turn around to laugh with them (because it was pretty funny, I have to admit), they’d stop laughing and just give me these blank stares.

Finally, I picked out one of the football players and asked him to come try. I figured I’d let him see how awkward it felt to have people staring at you without offering to help you out. But on the first try, he got that damn projection screen to stick. Which only intensified the snickering.


Now, not much frazzles me when I’m teaching. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten really flustered in a class before. Middle school kids and I get along really well, and so being with them feels comfortable and natural. Nothing about them flusters me.

Except today.

That class had me so flustered by their mean spirited laughter that I continued to step all over myself in class for the rest of the period. I was walking through the rows of desks and randomly fell off my wedge shoe, tripping and catching myself on that same darn football players desk (naturally…). I spelled about 10,000 words wrong on my board as I was writing, only to have each mistake pointed out with an eye roll one of the 5%. And when I tried to speak, I kept repeating myself or, even worse, contradicting myself.

Finally, by the time there were 5 minutes left in class, I stopped talking in the middle of a sentence and said, “I give up. Pack up and you can talk quietly at your desks.”

I’ve been in a funk since that class this morning. Nothing blows your good mood as quickly as one of the 5% of middle schoolers. But I will not be deterred. I have an awesome pair of hillbilly false teeth that I will be breaking out in that class tomorrow. I am going to force those kids to laugh at me to my face so that I can laugh with them. You can’t pick on someone who is already laughing at themselves, so tomorrow I’m going to be laughing my head off. Me and my hillbilly teeth.

Take THAT, you 5% middle school kids! Nobody laughs at me more than I do! Period!

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22 Thoughts to “5% of Middle Schoolers”

  1. Hahaha! What a great expression, and easy of life. There’s always that one class…don’t worry, you’ll get them!

  2. Oh… the 5%. You should also bust out the electric slide or something while wearing your hillbilly teeth… that would totally throw them for a loop! =)

  3. Katie

    Oh Katie…I’ve had days like that while teaching 9th graders. I’ve found that keeping one fun (and mildly educational) game in my file cabinet really helps. If I’m overly flustered, I’ll take a few minutes – or the rest of the block, depending on how bad it is – playing a game. The kids lighten up, and I don’t leave that block with that gross “I just got mentally beaten by teenagers” funk. It makes going back the next day and reteaching less painful. Plus, you’ll probably have a new reward for when the kids work REALLY hard.

  4. c :)

    as a fellow middle school teacher: LOVE the lesson! i feel for you having one of those lessons/classes/groups, don’t forget that with more time in school your relationship with them will build. you will win them over, i bet you are a hilarious teacher ! good luck 🙂

  5. Kristin B

    Oh Katie! I’ve been there! School starts for us next week, so I can only imagine what my freshmen and juniors will think of me when I have “a day.” Thanks for mentioning the Mary Poppins videos, though! I know exactly what you’re talking about, and I’m SO going to use that when I teach tone!

  6. Suzanne

    Oh I am so glad you’re breaking out the teeth! Too cool middle schoolers might be the worst 🙂 at least you can laugh at yourself though without throwing an eraser at anyone’s head….I’ll admit, I’d be tempted 😉

  7. Sandy

    just be thankful that your fractions aren’t more askew!

  8. Sandy

    me again…you have me curious…can we see your word bank? i want to see which percent i fall into. =o/

  9. Sheri

    I teach 8th grade language arts and I agree! Why is it that a group of 13/14 yr. olds can make an intelligent, well-adjusted adult feel like an awkward adolescent again! I like the attitude…tomorrow is always a new day!

  10. Aw, man, middle schoolrs…not cool, not cool at all. I would have laughed along with you!

  11. Jamie

    oh my gosh! as soon as that class leaves tomorrow you must pause and tell us how great it was! i will be waiting right here until then. so funny!

  12. I’ve taught elementary special ed for 13 years and just transfered to a middle school for this year. I know I’m in for a big change in attitude all around this year!

    But I just have to say…I have that same “stay calm and pretend this is on the lesson plan” sign on my bulletin board by my desk. As a special ed teacher for kids with Autism and lots of behaviors, that is our Mantra. The only thing ‘for sure’ is that things never go as planned…so we just go with it! ha!

    Your lesson sounded great…sorry that one class kinda killed it for you!

  13. These kids need to lighten up! I wish I knew then what I know now. “Being cool” doesn’t exist in the real world in the way that they are thinking. I want pictures of the hillbilly teethed teacher. Tell those kids to get a grip.

  14. Carrie

    I live with an 8th grade daughter that I am soooooo not cool enough for! 🙂 Makes it all the more fun to be goofy! Especially in front of her friends!!! GOOD LUCK and God bless you for spending your whole day in a building filled with them and enjoying it most the time! 🙂

  15. I could never teach middle schoolers. Ever. You have my utmost respect and wishes for laughter tomorrow.

  16. Amber

    Oh boy-what a rough day! I am so glad you aren’t going to let it get you down! I read your posts about teaching last year, and I know what an amazing teacher you are! Especially all you did with regards to reading and books:) I feel like sometimes there will be those kids in class who don’t want to learn, but good teachers don’t sacrifice the kids who DO want to learn because of those few. Good luck tomorrow and go get ’em-those kids are so lucky to have you!

  17. Katie…please take a picture of yourself with those teeth. Please, PLEASE, oh Please take a photo. Because I simply must see it so I can laugh right along with you. I’d never be that brave – you will tell how it goes right? Oh and take a photo? (Do you sense a theme, I sure hope so.)

  18. Lee Ann

    Katie, I have a friend (now retired!) who used to teach middle schoolers. Brave soul that he was, he actually chaperoned their field trips to Washington, DC and Florida. Oh my gosh! The stories he’d tell … that was before cell phones, so the teachers would remove the receivers from the room phones so the kids couldn’t call out. Then the teachers would take turns sitting in chairs in the hotel hallways at night so they’d know if any students left their rooms. No wonder he retired early! LOL!

  19. Kat

    Please take a picture of you with the teeth – I need to see this. And as for that 5%? Whatever, dude, they’re the lame ones.

  20. BFF Em-ly

    Next time this happens and those foolish little kids momentarily get the best of you, picture me behind the back row wearing a big ol’ pair of hillbilly’s, doing the Carlton dance and embarrasing the crap out of every last one of them. (“omg you are sooooo annoying”)

  21. Tabs

    Oh Katie! What a crazy day! Well, for your sake I’m glad its over and you can move forward. And I like the sound of your moving toward idea. Please give us am update of how it.goes with the teeth, pictures sure would be appreciated. 🙂

  22. Halcuri

    My screen hasn’t stayed in place since I moved to my classroom four years ago. I have to jam a ruler at the top of the screen in order to keep it from rolling back up every time I pull it down. My first block today, 10 out of my 24 students had done their first homework assignment which was to get their parent to sign a sheet of paper! It was so discouraging. Luckily, my next three classes were much better, but I can tell that first group is going to be a challenge! Such is the life in middle school! Hang in there 🙂

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