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Remembering Middle School

Posted by Priscilla on July 1, 2013

Do you remember middle school?

I do.

I remember wearing my navy trench coat all day, every day, never opening it up. I remember competing for high scores on the Iowa Basic Skills test with David. I remember DeDe insisting I should try to get a date to a Student Council movie night. Worst of all, I remember my neighbor, Jon, asking if he could sit next to me at said movie night. When I said “yes,” he said “Just kidding.” I remember the guffaws of a row of eighth grade boys who put him up to it.

Ah, middle school.


I’m thinking of middle school these days because I have just applied to teach English to middle school boys. What am I getting myself into?

My son tells me everybody hates middle school because relationships are awkward and filled with drama. If the relationship is with the opposite sex, it won’t last. Yes, hormones rage and yes, bullying gets worse.

Why would anyone willingly walk into that soup?

Because middle school boys and girls are at an exciting time in life. This is when development soars in so many areas. During middle school, children become young men and women. During middle school, they leave concrete reasoning for abstract reasoning. During middle school, they begin to understand compassion and integrity. Deeply held values take root and creativity flourishes.

What does this mean for the writer?

Writing for middle grade children or young adults is hard. These readers do not waste their time on junk or on half-baked stories. They love story, they love excitement, and they love honesty. For this reason,

1.     Respect the intelligence and depth of the middle schooler.

Madeleine L’Engle cautioned writers to never write down to children. Don’t assume they cannot understand something. Don’t assume they haven’t dealt with the rawness of life.

 2.    Include both a well-developed plot with high stakes and honest emotion.

Let me explain this by giving examples:  the Harry Potter series, Tangerine, anything by Margaret Haddix, and so more books that I can’t even begin to list them.

3.       Give your very best

What do you value above all else? That must come through in your writing. Middle schoolers look for authenticity. Give it to them.


What do you think?


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