Saturday, September 22, 2012

6th Grade

 As I've mentioned, Silas is in 6th grade this year, which is revelatory in many ways, not the least of which (so far, after three weeks) is that 6th grade can actually not suck. I'd heard this from other people; my sister-in-law, in fact, said that middle school was her favorite part of school, and then added, peering down to where I'd fallen on the ground, that yes, she'd heard that was pretty unusual.

This is pretty much his approach to life right now.
What most people say about middle school, actually, is that it doesn't matter where you go, large academically challenging school, small intimate school, personally designed and tailored just-to-you school, middle school is hard. It's the time of life. It's just difficult, and also your companions are difficult, and also your parents start getting on your case in the weirdest ways.

But in my experience, it's especially hard if you go from a small comfortable school to a large suburban school, so I was worried for my little snowflake, both for his actual anticipated anguishes and also for things he wouldn't know better about, like those hard-edged big middle school teachers for whom subject material is just so much meat to be squeezed through the heads of this year's crop of meat grinders.

I may have been projecting a little. 6th grade happened to be the worst year of my life. (And I'm compelled by fate to add a hurried so far, just in case, because if that's as hard as I have it, I'm well aware it's pretty good.) But there are areas of convergence in our circumstances: see previous paragraph.

The social elements are still subject to change, of course. Right now things are golden: packs of friends and acquaintances roaming the three or four local neighborhoods on the weekend, walking home from school, stopping at Panera's for smoothies and baked goods. I assume the law of middle school averages means that there's a bad stretch waiting up ahead, but in general, the setup reminds me of the occasionally tumultuous-but-mostly-settled pack of friends I had in middle school, once we left the big urban suburb and came back to Ohio.

The academic elements seem, however, much better. On the one hand, I don't think Silas cares. I myself, when I was closer to the age in question, confidently asserted that it was impossible to learn anything in middle school so you shouldn't even try. (Oddly, I was concurrently criticizing my smaller and much much more pleasant 7th-and-8th-grade middle school for being not rigorous enough. We were learning both algebra and Latin and in our English class read Beowulf and the Iliad.) (Teenagers, man.)

On the other hand: whew.

 They will read real books this year. When I said this, happily, to Si, he said, "What does that mean?" Fair enough. They will read The Red Pearl, The Call of the Wild, A Comedy of Errors. That's what I mean by real books. They'll also read Julie of the Wolves, which comes close. (What do I mean?)

The main things I remember about 6th grade English are that the teacher played in a rock band and kept pointing out that Sting also played in a rock band and taught English; that he spent the entire class, every class, sitting at his desk facing us in our desks, and that he had a thing against one of the students in the class and devoted some of every class period to humiliating him (nice.) We wrote a few stories and must have read a few, too, but I don't remember them; I'm pretty sure we didn't read any book-length books. We mostly studied grammar, and spelling, and sat in embarrassed silence while Mr. Manning lobbed mocking diatribes at poor X.

The other classes were better than this, but not much better. So when I am glad, so very, very glad, that the academics in the middle school seem both serious and like they recognize that there can be joy in learning, that is what I mean.

 Si has also been expanding his extra curriculars. Last week he snapped this photo of the first-ever chocolate cake he baked; he also made mini pizzas for lunch for himself and Helen. (I know, right? I'm afraid even to talk about it in case he hears the note of crowing satisfaction in my voice and shuts down the bakery for good).

Sticky and delicious.

So far, then, 6th grade has been one long compelling argument about why we live where we live, in the expensive part of town, far from the mountains and neighborhoods and, well, vibe that we like. This is not an argument that I like or even quite believe in, but so far it has been pretty hard to find any evidence to the contrary.

1 comment:

artemisia said...

I am so happy to see Silas flourishing like this!