Dana VanderLugt | Writer

What I wish teachers remembered about being a middle schooler

by | Aug 14, 2018 | On living, On parenting, On teaching | 2 comments

Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

I remember the exact moment of fifth grade — sitting in my desk, watching my teacher explaining a spelling game — when I promised myself that if I ever became a teacher, I would not forget what it felt like to be a student.

But I do it all the time.

Our desks and minds get filled with curriculum maps and to-do lists and papers to be graded, and our perspective is lost behind our piles.

Last year, I asked a group of my 8th graders, “What do you wish your teachers remembered about being a middle schooler?”

As we careen toward that first day, looking over class lists and planning those first lessons, I need to listen again to what they said. Maybe some of you do, too.

~ “Everyone learns at a different pace.”

~ “A good teacher must be able to put himself in the place of those who find learning hard.” – Eliphas Levi

~ We have other classes, so please don’t schedule all tests/quizzes on the same days. And when we say we didn’t have time, we obviously had minutes, but they were spent doing other things just as important, like sleeping and eating and doing other homework.

~ “One of life’s most painful moments comes when we must admit that we didn’t do our homework, that we are not prepared.”  – Merlin Olsen

~ “Everyone is going through something different, everyone gets busy after school, and everyone needs a little bit of time to still be a kid.”

~ “Quiet people have the loudest minds.” – Stephen Hawking

~ “When teachers try to force you to memorize things, it gets really boring. And it can be frustrating because you feel like you’re not really learning anything.”

~ “There is no such thing as a normal person.”

~ “Every student reaches success in different ways.”

~ “Don’t just teach us, inspire us! Show us how we really can use this in the real world! Otherwise, it feels as if our brain is being stuffed with useless information.”

~ “There is a whole lot of stuff new you have to learn, and it takes a while to adapt to the new environment or get the hang of things.”

~ “Middle schoolers are going through tough times.”

~ “Just telling us what we did wrong doesn’t tell us how to fix it next time. You need to, first off, explain what we did wrong. Secondly, tell us how we could fix it next time, don’t just say, ‘You got question three wrong.'”

~ “Not all students understand the teacher words you use to explain something.”

~ “We can be pretty lost when it comes to life. Be the person who sets us back on the path. Not the one that gets mad at us for losing it.”

~ “Just simply remember we are just humans. We have hopes and dreams, good days and bad days. We are going to make mistakes (lots), but most of us are happy to learn, so teach us!”

~ “We aren’t always daydreaming in class, most of the times we are imagining the outcomes of stressful school or home situations.”

~ “It’s hard to get piles of homework done in one night. We have lives outside of school just like you do!”

~ “We’re still trying to figure stuff out, such as our identity.”

~ “Every student can learn, just not on the same day or in the same way.” – George Evans

My lovely students (and givers of all this good advice), just as they were getting ready to leave middle school.


  1. Tom Kragt

    Thank you for this wonderful post. Perhaps we preachers should do something similar with our parishioners.

  2. Diane Velthouse

    These kids are wise beyond their years, thought provoking comments from each of them. Lots of insightful challenges for you dear teacher. They’re blessed to have you Dana.


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