Me in Grade 7
Posted on August 17, 2013
In preparation for this school year, I’m walking down ol’ nostalgia lane. When I first made my foray into middle school teaching a few years ago, my contention was always that, regardless of the grade, kids were kids. Or, rather, humans were humans. I still believe that, but I also see value in observing the unique characteristics of the middle school experience. I think it helps to strap on those old, proverbial Converse All Stars again.
Grade 7 was a big year for me. It was like I had been living in a house which had a certain number of known doors, when suddenly several more opened up. What? There’s a secret door under the rug? Huh? I can get out through the fireplace? That kind of thing.
It was the year I got my first real job. What an amazing job it was. I worked for Eduardo from The Toronto Star, the coolest grown up I had ever met up until that time. He drove a big white van and drove kids around in it (well, it’s not as it sounds). Myself and a few other boys would get picked up every Saturday morning, greeted by a big box of fresh donuts, and spend the day with him traversing the Greater Toronto Area. Each one of us would get dropped off and assigned a street. Our mission? Garner as many Toronto Star subscriptions as we could. We felt like the A Team.
I learned so much from that job: patience, perseverance, determination, oral language skills, persuasion, camaraderie. It was also the first time I had experienced earning what felt to me like a fortune. At the end of the day, we would be given a dollar for each subscription we scored, and then another dollar for each confirmed one on our paycheck. That meant, on a good day, we would end a Saturday with upwards of $30 in the hand or more. The absolute best part of the gig was our trip to Harvey’s hamburgers at the end of the day. To this day, burgers, fries, and a drink can never live up to the sweet taste of those Saturdays.
I saved up over a thousand dollars in a matter of months. I blew it all in one weekend.
My grade 7 year was also the first and only time I visited the country of my parents’ birth, South Korea. That’s only twenty-five years ago, but it still felt like a developing country back then. They were just getting a handle on concepts like blue jeans and fried chicken. I’ll never forget eating a burger that tasted like chapped lip skin. The words that come to mind most when I think of that visit are: smog, bathhouse, toilet, dog as garbage disposal, generosity, warmth, delicious food, and Ben Johnson. One day I will take my own children back to the new Korea.
When it came to school, however, I think of only one word: friends. It’s so bizarre, but I cannot, for the life of me, recall any teachers or grown ups. In my mind and my dreams, I only see shadows without faces. But I remember the kids in vivid technicolor. I recall Seth, my cool friend who I was so jealous of because his mom was pretty and made him Kraft dinner with ketchup on the side. I see Jamie, my ‘friend’ who knew it all and gave me all the wrong advice in the world about everything, not the least of which being girls. I remember being in love with Tara Sanderson, sure that I could never love another girl again like that in my life, until the dumb day that I kissed and told, for which she dumped me the very next day. I recall how vital it felt to me to wear the right clothes, and how visceral music was, like an intravenous hit of emotion via my Sanyo walkman (Sony gets all the glory).
I don’t remember a single project, school subject, or piece of homework. Grade 7 was… hallucinogenic, and I mean that in the most organic, non substance related terms.
Here’s an idea. In addition to fretting obsessively about whether your desk labels, binders, and washroom passes are looking cute and orderly, grab a nice Sharpie and a big piece of paper. Draw your name and the year in which you were in the same grade as your prospective students. What were you like? Which mistakes did you make? What did you learn that year?