The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Aug. 12, 2018

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Aug. 12, 2018

Picking up where we left off last week: We asked 10 more local educators who've taught eighth grade to share a story about their own experience during that oft-awkward stage of adolescence.

KATE HIGGS
Franklin STEAM Academy, Champaign

"I tell my students often that my eighth-grade experiences are why I became an eighth-grade teacher.

"We were supposed to dissect a frog; it was mutilated instead. I was supposed to understand the concepts in the book; I understood instead how to copy notes. According to so many, I was supposed to want to be a cheerleader, so I became one; I realized instead how important it is to follow your own genuine interests and curiosities.

"I left eighth grade knowing what I didn't want to do, and I didn't know what my interests were. I had amazing high school science teachers and college biology professors who really opened my eyes to science.

"After working in the world of labs, field work and data for a while, I realized just how interesting science — and life — can be to middle schoolers when presented in the way that adult scientists actually do science. So, now I do science with eighth-graders.

"My students like the fact that I hated eighth-grade science, but they really laugh their heads off when I tell them that my most embarrassing moments in middle school have actually been as a teacher — those two moments where my skirt got tucked into my tights, and I 1) walked amongst a class of laughing students with a stern scowl on my face demanding to know what was so funny and 2) walked slowly and confidently in front of the entire eighth grade in the cafeteria and behind the principal to get my lunch.

"I'm pretty sure they laugh so hard at those stories from the relief they feel realizing that their embarrassing moments from last week or passing period aren't anything to sweat."

CELESTE OLSEN
St. Matthew, Champaign

"One memory that stuck in my head was playing Red Rover in PE class. I was called over but instead of breaking through the line, I went flying backwards. My head hit a metal folding chair and I got a big ole gash.

"My mom picked me up and took me to their office to be stitched up — yep, Dad was a doctor and she his nurse. As an eighth-grader, my biggest worry wasn't getting stitches but if my dad was going to have to cut my hair to stitch me. Knowing his daughter pretty well — and probably at the urging of my mother — he carefully stitched me up without cutting a hair.

"Needless to say, I have never played Red Rover again."

SUSAN CLER
Mahomet-Seymour Junior High

"One of my fondest memories was memorizing the lyrics to the Billy Joel song 'We Didn't Start the Fire.' Along with three friends, I sang it to the entire class for extra credit.

"This was in 1990 and I still remember the words today."

BRUCE RUMMENIE
Urbana Middle School

"I went to a huge public school in San Diego in eighth grade. I remember being in gym class one day, probably 100 kids in this gigantic locker room with high ceilings, and suddenly felt this intense pain on the top on my head.

"Kids were all standing around, laughing and pointing at me.

"Someone had apparently thrown an aerosol Right Guard deodorant can toward the ceiling as high as they could. It came down directly on my head, the edge of the can on the top of my skull.

"It was all very funny until the kids noticed all the blood dripping down my face from the wound. The gym teacher had to rush me to the emergency room for stitches."

TIMBRA HILTON
St. Joseph Middle School

"Back in my day at Prairieview Junior High in Flatville, our need for socialization tested the patience of teachers via notes intricately folded in the shape of triangles that passed from person to person during class, in the hall or on the bus.

"Our socialization continued after school or on the weekends — in person at sleepovers, where you made the tough decision between Truth or Dare; at school dances, while slow dancing to the never-ending Guns N' Roses song 'November Rain,' or at Skateland, trying to see who could 'shoot the duck' the longest.

"Today, an eighth-grader's need to socialize tests the patience of all adults in their lives via texting, DMs, shared docs and gaming at all hours of the day.

"Being an eighth-grader in 1995-96 was tough enough; being one today would be exhausting. But as an eighth-grade teacher, I wouldn't trade teaching them for the world."

JAMES CAUDLE
Arcola Jr./Sr. High

"Berry Grade School was one of five schools that went to Wayne City High School. I remember at graduation, all five schools were put together, making a class of 50.

"We were the last class to wear formals to graduation — meaning girls in big dresses and guys in tuxes.

"I was in the front row and my parents told me later that they thought all the guys were going to pass out because the temp had reached the 90s and higher in the gym and we all had gone pale."

NICKI GRAHAM
Monticello Middle School

"I went to a weeklong music camp the summer before my eighth-grade year. The camp was huge, with so many kids from all over central Illinois, and a cute boy named Mike, who was in one of my group sessions, quickly caught my eye.

"Soon, he was leaving me notes on my chair, in my music folder and under my door at night. Each note included sappy lines from '80s rock songs that I thought were so romantic. Here's the thing, though: We never talked in person. We just left secret notes for each other and smiled flirtatiously through our sessions.

"There was a dance the last night of camp, and Mike left me a note asking me to meet him in the lobby. I was so excited, but when I showed up, I didn't see him. Instead, another boy walked up to me, told me I looked nice, and asked if I was ready to go in.

"I told him I was waiting for someone, and the boy looked at me, instantly confused. It turns out that Mike was not the 'Mike' I thought he was. I'd like to say that we went to the dance, laughed about the mix-up and had a great night. However, the reality is that Mike got upset and left the dance.

"I went on into the dance to look for the real boy I had been crushing on all week, only to see him locking lips with some other girl.

"Luckily, camp was over the next day, so I left before too many people heard the story."

CHRIS DRYER
North Ridge Middle School, Danville

"One of my classmates from Holy Family in Danville posted our eighth-grade class picture on Facebook. I look at the mullets, perms and glasses and think: Thank goodness most of the pictures from that time are hidden away in boxes in our parents' basements."

SUE JEAN
St. Malachy, Rantoul

"I was a student at J.W. Eater in Rantoul and look back with fondness and fear.

"We had some of the best teachers in the area — they always seemed to enjoy working together, supported each other and truly cared about the students. Needless to say, as an eighth-grader, you didn't always appreciate all they did at the time.

"Students couldn't get away with much. There always seemed to be a teacher around every corner to catch us in the act — and did often."

ZACH CAIN
Edison Middle School, Champaign

"Our eighth-grade class field trip at Holy Cross was something we all looked forward to with eager anticipation — a six-day, five-night excursion to Washington, D.C.

"I can remember leaving at 5 in the evening and traveling throughout the night until we arrived at our first destination, Gettysburg. The countless hours we spent pouring over textbook readings and pictures in no way did justice to the two hours of education we got from the park service's tour guide.

"Into D.C., we got a chance to see all of the various highlights that one envisions and equates with our nation's capital. There were three of us who just happened to be the lucky ones who unexpectedly ran into Senator Paul Simon.

And yes, he had his bow tie on.

"On our way back to Champaign, you could tell all of the parent chaperones were ready for this trip to be over. But in the front of the bus, our social studies teacher just sat back with a smile on her face, enjoying what had to have been her 20th journey to D.C.

"What would make someone crazy enough to take on such a task year after year with middle school students? I never did get a definitive answer from her, but after 18 years of teaching middle schoolers, I think I found the answer. Thanks to you, Mrs. Madix, the journey continues."

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