On my way to class the other day, I passed a few colleagues on hallway duty in the break between lunch and the start of classes. One colleague was waving her arms like a traffic cop, desperately attempting to quell the exuberance of a normally sedate 7th grader who was alternating between running and high knees skipping down a very crowded corridor, amid lockers slamming and pre-class chatter. She did not succeed in her mission.
She wailed, “What is wrong with them? Someone else, a kid I don’t even know, supposedly has a backpack full of snow and ice, and is throwing it randomly as he moves by kids at lockers, in some sort of stealth snow ball fighter game.”
Another hall monitor/traffic cop moaned, “Why is everyone acting so crazy?”
My answer: It’s February, and it’s endless. Even more, it’s the time when 7th graders try on their jerky pants. Some only experiment long enough to gaze longingly in the mirror, while others wear them indefinitely, so much so that the pants become stiff with grime and that musty and distinctive 7th grade odor.
I don’t mean to suggest that 7th graders are jerks, because they are not. However, they do find discomfort in this middle ground between childhood and becoming more mature, independent, and responsible. This last gasp of childhood almost requires some questionable behavior, even from the most serious and seemingly mature students, if only to make space for more adult norms. As they try to fit into the new expectations, a whole array of disguises seems at their disposal. Jerky pants seem, however, to be required wearing this month.
I suppose that is the rub — we adults have mostly (ah hem) at least stored away our jerky pants, or donated them to goodwill or something.
My 8th grade colleague suggests that even some of her 8th grade students, this time of year especially, reach into the back of their closets, drag out those jerky pants, and try them on for size. Hopefully, they will soon realize that have outgrown them, and no one wants to be caught wearing skinny, floody, jerky pants!