I teach middle school.  

I know all the current slang, but I can’t pull it off. I know the names of YouTubers, but I don’t subscribe. I Google things mid-day just to know what my students are talking about. 

I teach middle school. 

Each morning, my students slide into class knowing I have a daily schedule written on the whiteboard. They fall into their seats, socialize, and wait for me to request their attention. Most have been awake less than an hour, and it’s my job to wake them up. 

I teach middle school. 

“Sit up, don’t lay down,” I say. “Take the bottle cap out of your mouth.” “Don’t sit on your friends.” “Stop calling people sus.” “Why are you wandering the room?” “Did you just call me sus?” 

I teach middle school. 

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I deal with a lot of attitude. I hear the word “Ugh” a lot. I am rarely their favorite person. They don’t want to take notes, or work quietly, or write essays. I have to make them do it anyway

Yes, I teach middle school. It’s my job. And, I thank God I get to do it. 

I get to pour into my students each day. I get to take part in their growing-up storiesthe awkward, the difficult, and the sweet victorious moments. I get to help them figure out their interests and embrace their gifts. I get to pray over them on hard days and cheer for them on good days. I get to laugh with them. I get to learn from them. 

I get to teach middle school. 

I get to know my students. The girl who writes fantasy fiction and worships with lifted hands. The boy who aims to be on the Fortune 500 one day. The girl with the contagious laugh. The twin brothers who couldn’t be more different. The girl who always steps up to lead.

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The artist. The entertainer. The future photographer and currently quiet observer. The one always reading a book. The helper. The boy who never gives up. The girl who likes doing homework.

I teach middle school because behind each slang word, giggle, or video game reference is a unique and wonderful child of God. 

Sarah Whitman

Sarah Whitman is a writer and mother living in Tampa, Fl. As the religion columnist for the Tampa Bay Times, she covers a broad range of faith and spiritual-related topics. She also contributes parenting columns. She recently started a poetry page on Facebook and welcomes mothers to submit their writings to the site. Visit Mama Dickinson at www.facebook.com/mamadickinson. Visit 1mamadickinson on Instagram.