The room is so quite, still and empty that it almost makes me wish they wouldn’t have left.

I find myself consumed with them, intrigued as to why some succeed and others resist the opportunity to do well. They are all capable of being well above average and although I have been told not to take it personally when they don’t meet my expectations, I do take it very personally. It’s my personal responsibility to help them see themselves the way I see them. I see them as smart, creative people who are easily distracted but willing to listen if need be. They are motivated by rewards. It’s up to me to find a fitting reward and when I have done so, it is less likely I’ll have to go in search of a consequence.

I see them as people who crave attention and affirmation. Weather they know it or not they have a need to know I care about them. Few people in this world are motivated to do anything for another unless they know their work, energy, thought and time spent will be well-received and ultimately cared about.

“But they should care about themselves and that should be what drives them to do well.” Some skeptics have told me.

Perhaps some do, but most seventh graders care about things, people and events that are right in front of them. To see the big picture is overwhelming and foreign to most. Though college is right around the corner, they still see it as a mile a way.

“My son sees the bigger picture,” the parents may argue. “He already knows he wants to go to USC or Stanford.”

I am sure he does.

“Remember what we were like in seventh grade?” my best friend Tania asks me, reminding of the time we got held after class for talking too much.

I remember all too well. The ups and downs and in betweens and though it is nice to reminisce, I have no desire to go back in time.

Though I would love to know each of my student’s stories of why some are ambitious enough to work beyond what is expected of them, while others do the minimum, I am more concerned with how they view themselves. I am less concerned if they are a victim of their circumstance, but more concerned if they have the desire to be victorious despite their circumstance.

They are hybrids. Stuck somewhere between being an adult and being a kid and although we all think they should have nothing to worry about besides, sports, school and friends, they have everything to worry about. They have to grow up and stay young all at the same time. Moment to moment their brains are being asked to make right and wrong choices and the battle between what they learned as five-years to what they think they know now to what they don’t even know they know, can turn a simple decision like not talking in class or doing their homework on time, feel like one of the biggest challenges of their lifetime.

Fortunately for them though I am new to this teaching gig but I have never been so sure that I am where I need to be.

“Seventh grade is such a tough age,” I am frequently reminded by the experts of the world.

Personally, I think 28 was a tough age, but what do I know, it’s been a longtime since I was in seventh grade.

What was your middle school experience like?