Why teaching seventh grade is better than a weekend off

My friends who work Monday through Friday look forward to their weekends.

I do, too, but sometimes I prefer Monday through Friday.

I am a teacher. I've taught everywhere from third grade to 12th, but - much to the disbelief of my friends who teach elementary and senior high school - I like seventh grade the best. The girls are sweet and innocent (the cynicism and moodiness seem to arrive in eighth grade), and if they like you, they will do anything for you. Some even hope to bring you into the family. "Mr. Schachter, why don't you marry my Aunt Harriet? She's still married, but it doesn't look so good, so...."

The boys, on the other hand, struggle a bit. They are seem to be half the size of the girls, cry twice as often, and have trouble remembering their locker combinations after long weekends.

But, they, too, can be charming and endearing. When one youngster finished a report on civil rights, he made a reference to the Ku Klux Klan.

When this statement was met by baffled looks, he said impatiently, "You know, the CCC."

Today's youngsters are more tolerant than students of my generation were at their age. When I attended this school nearly 30 years ago (and I still bike there), the student body was 99.9 percent white. A kid coming from another country might have had a tough time surviving. But, as I look out at the faces of the students before me - the Indian kidding with the Korean, the Pole explaining an answer to the Iranian - I beam. This is one area in which the "good ol' days" were not better.

And, as they grow older, they remember. Last Christmas, Meredith gave me a new bell for my bicycle. Jamie, now a senior, calls me the night before school starts each year to wish me well. I feel fortunate to have attended many bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, confirmations, weddings, second weddings, and class reunions.

But it's been most fun having them "at the beginning," - in seventh grade.

I'll never forget the time I gave a class on the American Revolution the day after the dancer and actor Gene Kelly died. It was two days before a scheduled test, and I reviewed the important facts about the Revolution. Then I showed a four-minute videotape of Gene Kelly's memorable title performance from "Singin' in the Rain." One girl, whom I'll call "Alice," was absent. When she returned to class the next day to find out what she had missed, I told her, "We had a review session for the American Revolution test, and I showed a brief clip of Gene Kelly in 'Singin' in the Rain.' " Alice threw up her hands and, clearly exasperated, cried, "Oh, no! Don't tell me she's going to be on the test, too!"

Sometimes, Monday through Friday is more fun than the weekends.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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