I have been toying with the idea of starting a new feature here. Lots of people I know have clever, alliterative features on their blogs: Wordless Wednesdays and Festive Fridays and Thankful Thursdays and the like. I am not a) that clever or b) that creative. Plus, a lot of my friends who do this have something valuable to share, like my friend Elisa's amazing photos on Wordless Wednesdays, or author Annette Lyon's peerless grammar advice on Word Nerd Wednesdays. But see, Elisa and Annette have actual skills.
I don't want to give writing advice because lots of people do that and also, I feel like it's a craft I'm trying to master still, so who am I to tell everyone else what to do?
So, I've been thinking about my niche. I am the proverbial Jack of all Trades--I dabble in lots, but there's nothing I really stand out in (I'm being honest, not self-deprecating). Except one.
I totally get middle school kids. I really do. And I'm a pretty good teacher, if I do say so myself.
Since middle school is a place most of us remember about as fondly as gettting our wisdom teeth, there's not a lot known about it, and not a lot of people talk about it.
So, I am going to be that person. Henceforth (or until I get bored) I am starting Middle School Mondays here on bradenbell.com. On MSMs I will blog about the curious creatures we call middle school students, providing thoughtful commentary, pithy anecdotes, and deeply helpful advice for troubled parents based on my 25 years (!!!!!!) working with this age group. At least that's my intent.
Feel free to write in with your middle school questions. If you are a parent, maybe I can help you translate the strange grunts and squawks of your hitherto loveable child's bizarre new actions. I can help you understand the trajectory of your child's development and, if nothing else, help you have faith that one day, your child will return, a wonderfully mature and delightful, stable young man or woman. If you are a middle school student, maybe I can help you see why your parents act the way they do. In other words, I can be your translator. All identities will be kept strictly confidential. You can send me a line here or just email braden at bradenbell.com
For today, I wanted to talk to parents about the value of silliness.
Saturday our school had a big birthday bash. It was quite a day, complete with all sorts of festivities. One of the activities was face-painting. I didn't want my face painted. It's itchy and looks silly on men of my age and standing. But as I walked past the booth, some students asked me to let them paint my face. I have learned in these situations to agree to it. So, I sat down and had all kinds of glittery things painted on my face. I also had washable tattoos applied and a cat nose and whiskers.
This was not what I wanted. However, it amused the kids and it did me no harm. It bought me just a bit of credibility with those students and affirmed that I care about them. Next time I need to discipline one of them, it will be in the context of having a small bond. This is important if you are a youth leader or teacher or anyone in authority.
Middle school kids LOVE to do stuff like this. It usually involves making you look silly. It will rarely be what you want to do. Do it anyway. Swallow your pride and just give in. Be a little silly. The more dignified and up-tight you are, the more value this kind of thing has.
One caution: this has to be kid-initiated. If I had run up and said, "Hey guys, paint my face!" they would have thought it was lame. You can't impose or initiate this. But be ready, when your child suggests some silliness or other to go with it. It pays off later, big-time. Also realize that what a student will suggest with a teacher or coach, he or she may be mortified if a parent does it. So be sensitive to that.
Okay, and that's a wrap! Thanks for coming and tune in next time for another exciting installment of MIDDLE SCHOOL MONDAY!!!!!
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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