Oddly enough (to some people anyway) one of my favorite parts of the day in my work world is lunchtime. No, not MY lunchtime but the student lunchtime at the CA middle school where I am a guidance counselor. I am one of several adults who provide supervision on campus at that free time yet I do a great deal more than supervise. Allow me to illustrate what lunchtime supervision involves.
The lunch bell rings at 12:35 and I head out from the office to see what's up out there today. Generally I first tour over to where many of our 8th graders eat. These guys always intrigue me. What are they wearing today? Who is visiting with whom? Who seems isolated or upset today? How is the kid whose grandmother is in the hospital? Did that girl pass her science test? Lots of greetings and brief check ins happen in that walk through their chosen lunch spot. Next I walk on to where my 6th and 7th graders eat lunch. Typically I find lots of goofiness there and plenty of silly questions (Can we get hair straighteners in the bathroom, JT?) and I notice the same things that caught my eye with the eighth graders. The rest of lunch I continue to move, greeting every child by name (how better to demonstrate that I care about who they are?), poking my head into the girls' bathroom (everything okay in here?) and generally assuring myself that all kids on campus are safe. Sometimes a student will confide in me about a problem they are having or a friend about whom they are worried. They know I will follow up. They know I care about their world. They know they can trust me with their secrets. They trust me to help them navigate middle school and I take their trust seriously. I believe I almost always deliver.
Middle school can be a tough time for kids and for parents. Everything is changing for everyone and it’s tough to make friends with all those changes. Middle school students sometimes seem as open, joyful, and young as little kid 3rd graders. At other times, their fresh perspective and relatively new eyes reveal wisdom that jaded adults have long left behind. Just as in the adult world, you will find an occasional bully but steps are taken to both prevent or stop such behaviors when they are reported. Middle schoolers need community as much as they did as kindergartners. They need friends to talk to, peers to reflect back their world to them, a culture to call their own, and trusted adults to watch out for them. That sounds a whole lot like what all people need, regardless of their age.