“Is it true that. . .?”
“My brother told me. . .”
“I saw a video about. . .”
Sometimes middle schoolers won’t talk to you, but there are times when you can’t get them to stop. Any of the above openers is guaranteed to have several affirmations by classmates–“Yeah, I heard that, too”–followed by a potentially lengthy discussion. While it’s true they love to use stories to deflect or distract, there’s a benefit to letting them talk.
Middle schoolers are on the cusp of adulthood, and they’re trying hard to understand the rules and expectations of being a grown-up. Their worldview is limited, so they have lots of questions and misconceptions.
One year a student requested prayers for her grandpa, who was in rehab. Another student piped up that his cousin had gone to rehab but was still doing drugs. “You’re grandpa is a drug addict??” was the concerned question. I explained the various meanings of “rehab,” which in this case involved a stay in a nursing home following a stroke.
When a major news event takes place, I give my students time to share what they’ve heard so we can sort out fact from speculation. Because they are just beginning to foray into social media, it’s important that they learn how quickly false information spreads.
For example, when a train crashed recently, the rumors flewhard and fast: “I heard the engineer was texting;” “My sister said someone put something on the tracks;” “I heard a guy say therewas an explosion before the crash!” It turned out none of these had actually happened, and it was a good lesson in waiting for the facts to be uncovered.
Middle schoolers hear things. If given a chance to share what they’ve heard, they’re often happy to do so. Don’t be too quick to dismiss their chatter as babbling; take time to listen and to encourage both critical thinking and reserving of judgment.