Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Junior High Mix-Up

One of the best things about my job as a grant writer is that once in a while, I get a candid look at what kids these days are thinking. Mostly, I’m just a desk jockey. I’m pretty disconnected from why I’m writing grant proposals. I mean, yeah, I’m all about the raising of test scores and improving of “behavioral outcomes” through “research-based model programming.” (My soul just died a little composing those words.) But sometimes what I do for a living feels more like writing the same research paper over and over again in a hermetically-sealed closet. I rarely get to SEE the benefits of what I’m doing. So I love it when I visit a school and I can watch kids planting saplings in an outdoor learning lab, or riding bikes one of my proposals helped fund. But I’m even happier when people give me student survey results to use when I write a grant narrative.

One of my clients just gave me the results of a middle school student survey on a new program that is supposed to get kids to “mix it up” at lunch by seating them with people they rarely socialize with and in some cases, actively despise. I’m sure you can imagine how popular this is. I thought I’d share some of the more entertaining and revealing responses with you. (Quoted / misspelled per their exact responses.)

Q: Do you know why seating is done this way?
  • If you think we are makeing friends we are makeing enimies
  • Because your’re making us make new friends that we don’t like
  • It’s done so no one is sitting alone
  • To accept our peers, learn about other cultures
  • So we don’t get loud or fight
  • So we can make a “difference” in people’s lives*
  • So we can “socialize” with people who don’t like us*
  • It is what they do in Europe
  • Because you think if we get to choose our seats we will reject a loner. You think we are racist and rude
  • I don’t need more friends, I have enough drama
  • They want us to make friends and interact with all different kinds of people—I don’t have a problem w/that but when I can never sit w/ the friends I gain in the first place I’m really just losing friends in the long run
Q: What do you like least about lunch?
  • Sitting with weird people
  • Sitting with a person that makes fun of you
  • People throw food toe much
  • Sitting with people that talk very grose
  • Listening to people swear!!
  • Loudness
  • Wipping off the tables
  • That you have to rush to the lunchroom to sit with your friends!!! If you don’t…Once I had to sit at an ALL SIXTH GRADE GIRLS TABLE!!!
  • I don’t like to sit at tables where people think they are better than me. They are not! We are all equal! I’m sick of people telling me they don’t like me and they are beter. I hate it so much it’s not fair, why can’t the staff change the students. Huh?
  • The seating by 8th grade you should already have friends. This just tears people apart
  • I don’t like sitting in a group when they can be loud, messy and troublemakers
  • Meeting people that tells you the racist rumors ever
  • People throwing food
  • The boys allways go fist and then us gale get the crapi food I starv
  • People throwing rags at you
  • I wasn’t able to sit w/my friends and the 8th graders I had to sit w/were mean to me
  • having to sit with people who are snobs or people who smell
I got such a clear image of some of these kids when I read their responses. And it brought me right back to the intensity, awkwardness, and various injustices of junior high. (Fortunately this trip down memory lane was interrupted by a delightful yet brief collegial conversation involving the phrase "blow some BS." I can't say whether said BS was to be blown up anyone's orifices. It just wouldn't be professional.)

Anyway, wherever you are, honest and cynical survey-taking middle school kids, hang in there. Junior high doesn’t last forever.

Thank God.

*I love how jaded these kids sound. Dudes, they’re thirteen!


  1. Anonymous9:22 PM

    Oh, man, I would have HATED being made to sit next to someone I didn't know back then. I always sat by myself and read a book (I had friends, I just liked to read while I ate. I still do. Yes, I am a lame loser). I

  2. "Junior high doesn't last forever."

    Thank god, indeed.

  3. Thank holy fucking high heaven it doesn't last forever. Unless we choose to teach there ... wait ... uh ...

    Seriously, we did that "mix it up at lunch" program at a high school I worked at. The kids absolutely hated it. They ended up loving it. It was a small experimental school, though.

    And those misspellings? They're very, very tame!

  4. Anonymous9:40 PM

    I remember all to well how real everything felt back then. *shudders* I am so glad it doesn't last forever!

  5. Anonymous9:58 PM

    Throwing rags? Cripey... I must say those are NOT the best times of our lives.

  6. Anonymous10:42 PM

    I wonder if anyone comes out of junior high unscathed? Poor kiddos.

  7. Okay love the post here.

    Kids can be so witty and funny. I like the last answer.(I don’t have a problem w/that but when I can never sit w/ the friends I gain in the first place I’m really just losing friends in the long run)

    Okay is it bad that the cynical 13 year olds entertain me and make me laugh?

    First off the horror of Jr. high is so mighty and heartbreaking that thinking about it, is making it hard for me to enjoy my favorite food. Jr. High sucked.

  8. I have been active in our public school system for years now and it never fails to amaze me that the people who work with these kids EVERYDAY understand them the least.

  9. That does bring it all back doesn't it. I had forgotten what difficult, awkward time of life that is.

  10. Thank god we've left the days of making friends, enemies, and treading lightly so as not to hurt other people's feelings in our distant, distant past.


    (Now, if I could just figure out if I was the snob, or the smelly one...)

  11. My stomach did little flips just thinking about junior high. Such an awful time!

    Some of these statements were really, really funny.

  12. Anonymous8:50 AM

    Love the jaded comment. So true!

    Maybe our CIA agents should train in public schools. After navigating those currents, infiltrating the terrorists should be cake.

  13. Really great post. I have to sympathize with that girl who was upset because she had to sit at an all sixth grade table. I don't think I would like that very much either. :)

  14. Right now I'm reading a story that my friend wrote about kids that age (to give her feedback) and as a result, I've been having middle school flashbacks all week...but I'd forgotten about the hell that was Lunch Period. Until now. Thanks. :-)

    Anyone else completely ashamed at these kids' spelling abilities? Oh. My. GOD. (The boys allways go fist and then us gale get the crapi food I starv) WTF?!?

  15. Anonymous10:24 AM

    I swear, if ONE MORE PERSON throws a rag at me...
    God, I hated junior high (an original sentiment, I know). Boring as grant writing may be, you probably do actually make a "difference" in people's "lives."

  16. I literally laughed out loud at this:

    "Q: What do you like least about lunch?"

    "Sitting with weird people"

    I totally dig teenagers. They're so hilarious. Even when they're not trying.

  17. Anonymous11:35 AM

    Great post. The flashbacks alone gave me a psychosomatic bout of acne. Now I have to run to Safeway and buy a tube of Clearasil. Thanks a lot.

    In high school, our lunchroom had three levels. The main floor, an elevated section a few steps up for seniors (or underclass girls that slept with seniors), and a sunken area a few steps down (for the angry trench coat wearing shoot-up-the-school types).

    As if the social stratification at that age isn't bad enough, we had visible levels.

  18. Anonymous12:01 PM

    OH God I just had a jr. high flashback. The horror. My hair. People who say high school was the best years of their life are seriously whacked.

  19. LOL. I hated the lunchroom. HATED IT. And I hated the Lunch Lady. She was on a mission from hell. I'm trying to think of her name and all I can come up with is Lunch Lady Doris. Nope, that's not it.

  20. This post made me break out in a cold sweat. I hated junior high! But, to echo Liberalbanana, I was more concerned about their spelling than their sentiments. Wow. We really are living in the age of spell-check.

  21. Anonymous2:34 PM

    Some of these are CLASSIC. "It is what they do in Europe!" "I don't need more friends, I have enough drama!" "Once I had to sit at an ALL SIXTH GRADE GIRL TABLE!" LOL!!

  22. Anonymous3:09 PM

    How I hated Jr high! Poor kids. I like the comment by the kid who said she didn't need anymore friends; she had enough drama. Lordamercy.

  23. Thanks for the flashback - wait, is that a scrunchie around my wrist?

    LMAO - priceless.

  24. OMG, Jess, this is SO perfect and says it all. As the mother of an 8th grader, this is EXACTLY how they think, act and, unfortunately, spell. There is so much drama in every moment of their life, regardless of what they're doing. This is amazing.

    Now, if you could only write a grant that required you to eavesdrop on their IM conversations. I'd pay big money for THAT! Of course, we'd need a translator.

  25. Yep, makes you just want to turn back the clock, doesn't it? I would STILL hate to have someone else tell me who I have to eat with. At which point did schools forget that kids (yes, even jr. high kids) are people and not merely experimental controls/subjects?

  26. "Junior high doesn't last forever."

    Well, it sure as hell seemed that way! LOL!

  27. Some of these are really quite witty. I don't know if the kids intended them to be that way... but they are! ~ jb///

  28. Anonymous10:35 PM

    This is great. I've heard about it for awhile and think it's a n excellent idea. Sometimes I see these kids at my daughters' school, eating all alone and it just breaks my heart.

    I should suggest it to the principal. I wouldn't think elementary school is too early to start.

    (I'm sure you've heard about this website?

  29. Great Post. I'm on the fence whether this is good or bad though.

    Glad it's all over.

  30. Anonymous1:51 PM

    I had to self-talk myself that same mantra - "it won't last forever." I was in middle school during the whole USA for Africa and I looked rather Ethopian (that is what the called me) and if you rcall the song "Feed the World" by Band Aid, they played that at lunch and kids gave their spare change to donate for the hungry kids in Africa. Except a couple of tables (4 kids @ each) said the song was for/dedicated to me. Nice. The irony was, I ate 4 ice cream sandwiches for lunch (25 cents each...and don't tell my mom!)

    Tho considering what they do now, I should be grateful.

  31. Anonymous4:55 PM

    Middle school was the WORST. So why I ended up teaching eighth grade English for FOUR WHOLE YEARS is totally beyond me. I could definitely see some of my students writing these responses.