On a whim, I accepted a subbing assignment today at a middle school where I'd previously subbed extensively. I haven't been back there since last December, when, for budgetary reasons, I was fired from my position as a teaching assistant. I was a bit apprehensive about going back, since this was the place that was happy to have me there as a sub and a teaching assistant, but didn't hire me for an available English teacher position. I wasn't especially good at the job, and I got the distinct impression that the teacher under whom I worked didn't care for me. I went anyway, and I was glad I did - it was nice to see some familiar faces, and I do enjoy the kids at that school - but I was a bit nervous anyway.
I like middle school-aged kids a lot: They're at the age where they're still silly, and they're open and curious about many of the adults in their lives.
Two years ago, when I was subbing in a long-term assignment at the time Ed and I were engaged and planning our wedding, it came out that I was engaged. (The ring kinda gave it away.) Many of the kids, the girls especially, were curious, and the few times Ed would pick me up from school, he'd get spotted. (We had only one car at the time; he was working from home at the time so I took the car, unless he had a meeting or another obligation that necessitated his taking the car, in which case he'd drop me up and pick me up.) The next day I'd hear, "We saw you and your fiancee yesterday!" followed by a giggle.
But they also want desperately to be taken seriously and to figure out how to be adults, and want to know what it takes, and what it's like, to be an adult. They have specific ideas of what being an adult means and encompasses, and they compare their adults in their lives. Yet they lead a sheltered life in many ways. Or rather, some of them do, and others are beginning to see the world beyond their immediate families.
Some time back, one kid at a different school asked me how many kids I had; before I could say a word, another answered that just because I was married didn't mean I had kids. The first kid just couldn't wrap his head around that possibility, and nothing the second kid said could convince the first kid that not all married people had kids. (I said not a word throughout this entire exchange.)
In that student's world, every adult who's married also has kids, and he couldn't fathom a different world. He will, of course, and he wasn't trying to be rude, but since he's surrounded by other kids, at this moment in time it's quite possible that every married adult he's in contact with has several. (Folks here tend to have large families.)
In a simiar vein, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with some middle school kids some time back:
Student #1: [seeing my name written on the board]: Are you married?
Student #2: Of course she is, otherwise she wouldn't have written "Missus" next to her last name.
Student #1: What's your husband's name?
Me: Mister Szetela.
Student #1: .....
Student #2: Hah! What did you THINK she'd say?