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© John P. Wood for Learning Laffs
by Goose/TX (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Very rarely in the middle school climate, do I observe acts of kindness between two students who hardly know each other. Within the frenzied atmosphere, it appears to me that each student is totally immersed in his concerns and is completely oblivious to any other studentís problems, unless the student happens to be a good friend.
"Survival of the fittest" is definitely in affect with middle school students. Iíve never visited New York City, and probably never will, but from what Iíve heard about the streets of New York, there is an uncanny similarity to the halls of a middle school. Iíve observed students, who while attempting to run through the packed halls, have nearly knocked other students down, and continue on their way without the slightest hesitation. I have been run into by students, had my feet stepped on by students running in front of me, and have been cut off many times by students blitzing across my path. These incidents havenít extremely disturbed me, but they have caused me a moderate degree of bewilderment.
A few times, just out of curiosity, I have waited on one side of the hall, obviously wanting to reach the other side, while students impassively streamed by. I donít think that the students were intentionally being rude; rather, I believe that they assumed that if I truly wanted to cross the hall, I would cut in front of them as they do to each other, which is what Iím normally forced to do if I actually need to cross a busy hall.
If some misfortune causes a student to drop his books or other objects in the hall, he normally is left on his own to gather his dropped articles, unless a good friend happens by. Again, I donít really believe that the students are intentionally being unsympathetic; rather, I think that they are too consumed by their personal endeavors to consider the significance of other peopleís problems.
If a student happens to have some article of clothing out of place or ink on his face, or some other abnormality, the normal reaction of the other students is an outburst of laughter rather than politely informing the student of the situation. This seems a rather cruel reaction to me, but normally the victim embarrassingly laughs it off without being visibly affected by the incident.
However, last Tuesday, I observed an extremely unusual act of kindness by a student. In my twenty-eight years of teaching, I canít recall witnessing anything kinder in the middle school atmosphere.
While I was on cafeteria duty, a seventh grade girl was walking into the cafeteria and dropped a container which held her pencils, pens, and several other articles. Unfortunately, when the container struck the floor, the contents scattered in all directions. While other students continued to stream past her, she was embarrassingly attempting to gather her articles from the floor. In the midst of her dilemma, Kali, an eighth grade girl, who is a cheerleader, a class officer, and one of the most popular girls, got down on the floor with her and helped her gather her belongings.
For a middle school student, that was not only an extreme act of kindness, but also an admirable display of courage and class. People sometimes ask me why in the world I continue to teach middle school. In response I can reply that the incident I just described wasnít The Miracle on 34th Street, but it was darned close, and I was there.
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