Friday, May 25, 2007
This past week I took my 8th grade class on a trip to Washington D.C. This was the second time that I have visited my nation's capitol. The last time I was there I was the age my students are now. We had arrived in late afternoon and thought that we would walk around the memorials that surrounded the Mall. After coming topside from the subway my first realization hit me. My kids had no idea how to behave in a city. They were tripping over each other and tripping me. They would stop short and turn around, running into someone behind them. They would stand on the left side of the escalators and block the human traffic. They were pointing at people and talking loudly enough for those people to hear them. They gawked at tall buildings. It was extremely annoying. In a way I loved them for this.
In a way I wish it was just me and the kids with no parents. It was nice to have them with, but I felt like I was stuck between the two worlds of the kids and the parents. Both offered a little sanity in the face of the other. Sitting with the kids for too long would make me want to yell at them to stop wrestling with each other. Sitting with the parents too long wound me in a web of stories about people that everyone knew or was related to. I was stuck between the old and the young.
One of the parents commented on how young our nation is. In less than ten generations we are connected to our founding fathers. It is true. We are a young nation, but we are not a young government. We are quite an old government. We are one of the oldest in the world. You might think of France, England, Germany, China, Egypt, Greece, etc. We have a government older than them all. Still, we are quite young. A bumbling young nation, laughing the laughter of youth. Barebacked, soot faced, grinning. It is a good thing to have an old government who tells us stories of the people it knows and those it is related to. It gives our bumbling nation the proper dose of maturity.
On one night as the parents and I sat around talking one of the students came to talk to her mom and ended up sitting down for a while. Her mom was asking me what grades I had taught and as I told her 4th-12th she also asked me what age I preferred to which I said,
"I used to prefer high school kids, but I think I have changed my mind. I like this age. (nodding to the girl) You have changed my mind. I think I might stay with middle school age."
Some days I seriously consider it. 8th graders are smart, but not yet cynical. They are witty, but not yet sharp tongued. They are crafty, but not so much so that they can deceive me. They are funny and light hearted. They are old enough to begin to understand the world, yet young enough to be eager to hear of it and be enchanted by it. Of course they can be pretty annoying too. The always want to test each other's physical limits. How far can you bend your finger back? Want to arm wrestle? Can you jump and touch the ceiling? Perhaps, perhaps, I will continue to teach middle school kids. For now though that will have to wait. For now I will return to the old world. The grass is always greener, so it goes.