Are They Deaf?

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One afternoon Cynthia and I were out walking when we heard loud voices coming from somewhere nearby.  Concerned and wondering if we were coming up on a fight, we spied three freshman-aged boys about two blocks away. Definitely not fighting, they were having a good time laughing and talking – or rather yelling – at each other.

Teens are loud.  That could be the end of the blog right there, but let’s chat about why.

Like many activities that bother adults, being overly loud is part of The Bubble Effect (see “Wait. . .What?” for more on The Bubble).  Teens are still young enough to get louder as their excitement grows, and they forget others nearby aren’t sharing their enthusiasm.  This actually starts when they were four or five, but then they have higher, cuter voices.  By age 13 or 14 their deeper and stronger voices can really carry – and annoy.

When I observe this in the lunchroom, I’ll hold my hands about a foot apart and say, “She’s only this far away; you don’t have to yell at her.”  The response is always, “I wasn’t yelling!”  But the voices will be quieter as I walk away – for about seven seconds.

Sometimes I use a one-word prompt – “Volume!” – to let students know they’ve gotten too loud.  When out in public, I’ve been known to stare across the lobby with my best teacher face until a group of noisy teens figures out why I’m looking their way.  A look that says, “Really?” can be very effective.

Because until that moment, they’ve had no idea how high their volume is.

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It’s An E-Ticket Ride

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“She’s so emotional!  When I started talking about her new school, she burst into tears, ran to her room, and locked the door!”

It’s a familiar story at the end of the year, whether or not there’s a new school involved.  Middle schoolers are such emotional creatures anyway, and all of the emotions that come with endings and new beginnings bubble up and overflow.  The adults in their lives find themselves riding a roller coaster with blind turns, breathtaking climbs, and alarming dips.

The best thing a parent can do is to hold their middle schooler’s hand during the scary parts, high five them during the exciting parts, and try not to be caught off guard by the next outburst.

At our school, the 8th graders graduate in June and go off to either 9th grade at a junior high, or freshman year in high school.  Doesn’t matter where they go, they’re leaving behind all that’s been familiar – for 10 years for some of them – and heading into foreign territory.  Their comments throughout the year swing from “I can’t wait!” to “I don’t want to go!”  I tell them they should be ready to leave but sad to go, and they appreciate that I understand how mixed up they are.

That’s the parents’ job, too – to show they understand.  A middle schooler will appreciate a parent who shows empathy far more than a parent who belittles – or worse, who tries to change – their feelings.