Published: 6 years ago

I Got Middle Schooled


Yesterday was a hard day.

Several weeks ago, I signed up as a volunteer proctor at Jacob & Austin’s school. The sales pitch was that parents were needed to hang out in the rooms during end of grade testing to make sure ne’er do wells didn’t cheat and that the teachers read the state-mandated testing instructions word-for-flippin-word (“Please make sure you have a no. 2 pencil. If you do not have a no. 2 pencil, I will provide one for you if you raise your hand. No, not your right hand. Your left hand. And you must raise it at a 45 degree angle. What do you mean you don’t know what a 45 degree angle is? This is an end of grade test for geometry, you moronic imbecilic children.”)

I thought that it would be an easy way to volunteer, to give back, to get involved, to sit in a quiet room for three hours and read a good book or maybe play on The Twitter, glancing up occasionally to make sure the kiddies weren’t passing notes or constructing pipe bombs.

But no. Fast forward to yesterday morning, when I showed up for my proctoring orientation. Here are the proctoring rules, in no particular order:

  1. You may not read a book.
  2. You may not play on The Twitter.
  3. You may not do anything except pace around the room mindlessly for three no four no FOUR AND A HALF hours staring off into space and believing you’re going to go out of your ever-loving mind because you’ve never ever been this bored and thanking the sweet Lord above that you no longer have to take math exams because dadgummit those questions look hard.
  4. Oh, and we may pull a very sneaky bait and switch and put you with eighth graders.

That’s right. Apparently there’s a middle school attached to my high schoolers place of education. I signed up believing I would work with high schoolers, who have gotten to the point in their lives where their brain has re-developed and they don’t smell like a mixture of cheese fries and Axe body spray. But no. I was assigned to an EIGHTH GRADE CLASSROOM. Which was partially filled with EIGHTH GRADE BOYS. Who, as everyone knows, cease to be a productive member of society until the aforementioned brain re-develops.

Before you write angry comments, you should know that I’ve owned a couple of eighth grade boys. In another few years I’ll have another eighth grade boy living under my roof. And if anything I’ve said so far rubs you the wrong way, you need to go out and meet an eighth grade boy and then instead of writing angry comments you’ll nominate me for president, because you realize the vast and copious amounts of wisdom that is contained in my skull.

But I digress. I walked toward the insane asylum eighth grade boy classroom, praying that I wouldn’t get shoved into a locker or given a swirlie or any other thing that may or may not have happened to me in eighth grade. And as I entered, my worst fears came true: the eighth grade boys were indeed still there and had not been shipped off to a detention facility.

Watching the poor teacher try to distribute exams and read testing instructions was somewhat like watching a young butterfly trying to bring order to a pack of rabid hyenas. The eighth grade boys asked stupid questions. They made stupid noises. They acted out stupid motions. They did stupid things.

And because I distinctly remembered the fine print in the proctoring instructions that warned me against the use of tazers, I sat there helplessly.

But finally, the teacher got it through their thick skulls that if any of the testing rules (no talking, no cheating, no hand to hand combat with the test proctor) were violated, it would be considered a “misadministration” of the exam and they’d have to come back to retake it, the hooligans finally settled down and began filling in their dots.

And so, for the next several hours, I paced. I walked. I watched. I fell asleep standing up. I read every single poster on the wall (If You Can Believe It, You Can Achieve It!). I counted the planks in the floor (82). I felt my outlawed phone buzzing in my pocket, alerting me to life that was being lived and live-texted by friends outside the walls.

And I realized that – out of all the unenviable jobs in the world – middle school teachers have to rank at the very top. Here’s a formula for how we should set middle school teachers’ salaries: Take what they’re currently making. Multiply it by 20. Double that. Add $100,000 to it. And whatever answer you come up with ought to cover the first year of their therapy bills for their PTSD treatment.

Finally, the last kid finished the exam. But because we had to follow state-mandated instructions, the kids still had to sit there quietly. Which – if you know eighth grade boys – means that they certainly did not sit there quietly. So for another hour, the teacher and I pretended to maintain control, even though we both knew that at any minute these wild children could overtake the room, haul us off to the biology lab, and disassemble our persons and sell the parts on E-Bay.

At the end of my shift, the teacher thanked me for my time. And then he very innocently asked, “So are you back with us tomorrow?”

I’ve never run so fast in all my life.

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  1. Amy Hill says:

    As a 23 year veteran of the 8th grade classroom, I couldn’t agree more, but I love it!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Danny says:

    Amy, as one of the products of your FIRST year teaching (back then you were in 10th grade), I’m proud to say that your hard work paid off and I did indeed make it to adulthood.

    And thanks to Mr. Forsythe, I can indeed locate Central America on a map. 🙂

  3. Connie says:

    The first 7 years of my teaching career took place primarily in a middle school. Would you please make your salary suggestion in the form of a motion at the next school board meeting?

  4. Judy says:

    I am a middle school teacher and I think the proctors got the bad end of the stick. That test was horribly long.

  5. Debby says:

    Yes, proctors have it tough. But those kids, having to sit in silence for 4 1/2 hours, under pressure to perform on tests that poorly assess the curriculum, and then have to do it again the next day, and the next day—they are the victims.

  6. Martha Springstead says:

    Taught middle school for 17 years and loved it, mostly. My theory has always been”you never have a better friend or a worse enemy for at least five minutes”! But she is right about the tat proctoring. whew!

  7. Vanessa Allison says:

    I have been a teacher assistant luckily for the 1st grade and helped with 3rd and 4th and proctored both. I totally believe every word you have said, because we taught them from the low grades how to punish the proctors. Just kidding!!!!! It is a challenge and yes you are right no teacher gets paid enough!!!!!!

  8. Bob Turmell says:

    Taught Middle School for 42 years.Can be stressful.
    What I learned from all of life is—-“There is no free lunch out there”—-
    “The stressless job does not exist.”
    There were times when fun was to be had and believe you me
    I took advantage of those times.
    Finally: 5% of the kids made 95% of the noise — the other 95% made 5% of the noise.
    Bob Turmell

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