I confess that my classes of middle school students make my days enjoyable and challenging all at the same time. When I think about my time as a teacher coming to a close (as it very well could after this year…?), I grow apprehensive and sad. After all, my reasons for writing YA novels, as well as my writing itself, is so inspired by my interactions with my students. I keep wanting to take “mental pictures” of every moment in here (like Jim and Pam on The Office Wedding) so I can save up a huge mental album of memories.

For example, as I’m writing this, there are several funny things happening… I gave my students a writing assignment – determining that when I make them write, I will also make myself write – and the assignment goes with our Author Tone study. I thought they’d really get into this prompt:

“You are writing a break-up letter to your soon-to-be ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Use the same reasons for breaking up with him/her in both letters, but change your diction to show two opposite tones.”

So, now I’m sitting back and taking mental pictures of my room… like, I just took one of the boy balancing a book on his head as he writes. And then there’s one boy giggling over the fact that he addressed his “break-up letter” to Michael Jackson. (I’m about to make him change it, but I’ll let him enjoy his mirth for a moment longer.) One girl shoots dirty looks across the room at the boy giggling to make sure he’s not laughing at her. Another girl recognizes “Clair De Lune” playing on my iPod, which causes another student to utter distaste for the movie, Twilight. A couple of other students have now propped up binders and folders around their work so nobody else can see their TOP SECRET letters. One boy is living out his fantasy of breaking Britney Spears’ heart. Another is finished early and stretched out on the bean bag reading his library book. I have one boy leaning back in his chair, and I’m contemplating either pulling him all the way back and watching him land hard on the floor in front of his peers… or taking away his chair privileges for the day and making him sit on the floor. Hmmm… the former would be more fun for me…

Middle school is just one big, quirky experience and I love it. I can’t imagine not having this kind of insane and unpredicatable routine (intentional oxymoron) in my world every day. There are certain jokes I can make, certain silly things I can do in a middle school that I can’t do anywhere else. Here are some of my favorite experiences from this week…

1. When Savannah and I saw each other in the hall this morning, we both shouted dramatically “BALLOOOOOOON BOYYYY!!!” at the same time. (This was after watching the footage on my Smart Board after school yesterday and then texting about it last night.)

2. Madison was walking down the hall to PAL class and I heard her say to her friends, “Wait, I think I’m forgetting something.” “YOUR BRAIN.” I called out. She looked around, trying to figure out who said it and her friends pointed to me. “Oh, it is so ON, Mrs. Dallas!” She yelled back before entering her classroom down the hall.

3. I was trying to explain how the word “intimidate” had a different connotation than saying “threatened” or “scared the pee out of” (which made the kids laugh). Then I confessed that my mom used to tell me in middle school that I didn’t have a boyfriend because I intimidated the boys with my intelligence. (Ha!) Chloe said, “So you scared the pee out of them, huh, Mrs. Dallas?”

4. We’re kicking off our recycling program and we are doing Weekly Wednesday Dumps where teachers send a dump delegate after the announcements to walk across the street with their paper recycling. So, yes, over the entire school’s PA system, I announced, “It’s ti-i-ime to take a DUMP!”

5. Only in middle school can your Student Council select a t-shirt design with the slogan, “We’re Tight Like Spandex.” And then your National Junior Honor Society members agree unanimously on having a PINK shirt this year. Yes, all the boys campaigned for pink…

6. We have a Smart Word of the week – every week – and this week, it is “finagle.” And the kids keep trying to finagle their way into winning the Smart Word contest for which class used the word the most in discussion this week. Those little finagling fanatics…

7. I read a book written from a nerdy middle school boy’s point of view (Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen) and, while reading it to myself during the students’ silent read time, I would laugh out loud or get really embarassed. When asked about why, I just told the students, “I don’t think I need to know any more about how middle school boys think… icky.” Now that I have finished the book, most of my boys have put a hold on it in the library and are currently sharing with each other the parts that must have grossed me out as it passes around my room… But, hey, at least they’re reading??? Gah. They have assured me that they DO NOT think like that… but, yeah right.

Snap, snap, snap… so many mental pictures to take around here. I know I could keep going with these stories, but this entry has gotten long enough. I so enjoy my life – as crazy, as busy, as unpredictable as it is… I’m in this adventure for as long as it lasts.