If you ever had the experience of teaching 8th graders, or being an administrator in a junior high or middle school, then you will understand what I am saying. Just having a child in 8th grade does not count. You have to be around bunches of them in a lunchroom, gym class, or auditorium to get the full understanding of what is happening to them.
Since I have been both in different parts of Pennsylvania, I have the privilege of letting you in on these secrets. The first secret is that 8th grade girls are mostly psychotic. Find that hard to believe? Ask any teacher or administrator in that grade and they will affirm what I am saying.
The changes that are happening to them at age 13 or 14 are really beyond their understanding. They are hormone infested packages of energy, restlessness, antagonistic, boy crazy and unpredictable. I may have told you about an 8th grade girl who stuck her tongue into the ear of a malr guidance counselor. It shocked him so, he ran out of the office screaming. By the time 10th or 11th grade rolls around, they drift into a semblance of normality.
The boys, on the other hand, do not follow the girl’s pattern. That part of the brain which organizes their thinking is not yet clicked on. In fact, they lag about four years behind girls and don’t catch up till they are in their mid 20’s. However, they do have traits of their own.
Most of the time they cannot tell what a future for them will bring. As an experiment, when we were running a prep school scholarship, we asked a group of boys and girls a question, “What will happen to you in the future.” The girls talked about going to college, finding a man to marry, have children, or choose a career. The boys, on the other hand, wondered about what the menu would be at lunch and when would they get their jackets for playing on the school team. I kid you not.
Boys were also argumentative with each other. Their arguments seemed out of tune with the current happenings in their lives. They would argue about whose father had a larger gun than the other. Carol and I call this the “Atom Bomb” argument. For at the end of argument, someone might say, “My dad has an atom bomb.”
They were very self-centered and could not control themselves when it came to criticizing others. When someone was happy about grades or accomplishments in an extra-curricular activity, there was always some put down remark. And yes, they bullied each other verbally and sometimes physically. They picked on people, both boys and girls. Girls might have done it more psychologically, but boys also had their ways.
They would crow about this and that. If they were a bit older or more mature, they would be prideful about some young lady they were squiring and how far they had gotten with her. Their talk may have been tall stories, but some people listened and were impressed. Most were not. I have a feeling that the birds and the bees was not a household discussion in those days.
There were those boys who were asocial and eventually found themselves going to a private prep school or two. They went there for two reasons. The first was that they were not academically able and needed tutoring and individual help. Others left because, if they stayed, they would not have survived the continual haranguing from classmates. This was not part of bullying. These gentlemen were genuinely hated by most of the boys in the class, even those who were normally the victims of bullying.
I often wonder how those boys made out in later life.