It was back to seventh and eighth grade for these two years.
The eighth-grade curriculum with some exceptions remained unchanged. However, these years -- at least for me -- were trying times. In retrospect, it was time to modify the curriculum. The dead white males were in charge-- I added some excellent outsider reading, but I did not think through the ramifications of having X-number of kids reading X-number of books.
Often, I felt as if I had a rebellion on my hands. There were two camps-- those who worked their blooming tails off, read every word in the book, avidly participated in class, labored on five-paragraph essays and those who wanted me to live among stalactites, questioned everything we did and felt a sense of pride when they got my goat. My coping skills were at an ebb.
I sensed my world was changing around me. Mrs. Stokes, the divine light of Graland School, often reminded me I was taking any resistance rather personally. I had forgotten Tim Johnson’s famous words, “Phil, Middle School children are here to test all of us; that’s their job.”
In addition, using computers became a must. Yet, this self-styled Luddite was not ready. I recall spending an incredible number of weekends trying to learn QuarkXPress and still found myself boggled by the program, among others. I never understood Hyperstudio. The kids helped each other-- a blessing.
I wish I could borrow that infernal time machine created by Mr. Wells and go back in time. Maybe, I could convince some of the skeptics that Salinger did craft a narrative path in American literature for which we should be most grateful; maybe, I might discover why my prowess as a teacher was less than stellar.
Joanne Milavec always reminded me there was life after seventh grade. As I struggled with eighth graders, I repeated Joanne’s simple, powerful dictum. I needed to have fun; I did. The seventh graders in both years proved to delight most days. That memory became important to me as I thought about Charles Elbot’s proposal for 1993-1994.