As a teacher, I can tell you the most devastating moment for seventh graders. The first day of school. It’s even devastating for me, because I have to WATCH them be devastated. They all look like deer in headlights. New school. New teachers. New type of schedule. Passing time? What’s that?! Everything is new…It happens every year…
The students go to their I-Block class (first class of the day, I guess you could compare it to homeroom). As a teacher we face that awkward first-day-of-school silence and in the back of my mind I can’t help but think, “I give this two days.” Because, well, you know how middle schoolers can be. Silence is not in their gene pool.
So I meet-and-greet them; try to make them feel as comfortable as possible; but I try not to smile too much, because after all I want them to be a little intimidated haha. And then I talk about my classroom expectations as they stare at me in complete silence, almost as if they’re looking through me, not even at me.
And then it happens.
Locker practice. Yup. I take my students out to the hallway with all of the other seventh graders and their teachers, and we attempt to open lockers. They’ve never had lockers before. They don’t even know how to use a combination lock! And it never fails, I always have that one student who just can’t seem to open their locker, and they’re on the verge of tears, whether they’re a boy or girl. And they ask me for help, because that’s what I’m there for. And I do it. Get it open, easy as pie. And I explain and show them how to do it… over… and over… and over… because they still can’t do it. This goes on for about five minutes, and then finally they master it! And there’s a huge exhale of relief and smiles going around. Because by this time everyone has gathered around to watch.
But then you have another student. There’s one left. The one that I haven’t had a chance to get to yet. The quiet one. Who others noticed couldn’t get their locker to open and even they tried, but they couldn’t succeed either. And so I go over, ready to work my super-teacher magic. Popping my knuckles in my mind. And disappointingly, I can’t get it either. And the student looks at me with puppy dog eyes as if to say, “Mine is the only one that won’t work?” And I make attempt after attempt. But still fail. And then I have to disappoint them and say, “I’ll have to let the office know your locker number so they can fix it.” And the kid is so embarrassed. I can see it on their face that they just want to cry, but they won’t because, well, they’re in seventh grade now. Goodness, it breaks my heart to have to break their heart. So I try to divert everyone’s attention by heading back into the classroom to transition to their next class. In the meanwhile I write down their locker number on a post-it so I can get it to the proper person to get it fixed.
This is one of the most devastating moments a seventh grader faces hands down. And I have to witness it every single year.
The funny thing about this is as an adult it seems so trivial. Because we face different types of devastating moments as we get older. Ones that make not being able to open a locker seem like just a miniscule bump in the road. But to that seventh grader, that bump is like a giant boulder laughing in their face as it blocks the entire road.
I think it’s important as adults when we face devastating moments to relax. Take a deep breath. Maybe seek someone to try to help you through it. Will that person always be able to help? No. They might try. But they might not have an answer. But I know someone who always will: God. Know that in the end everything always works out, not necessarily as we planned, but it still works out. The locker eventually gets opened.