Seventh grade… take two

photo via Franklin Public Schools

photo via Franklin Public Schools

Middle school was the worst years of my life. No, I’m not being overdramatic. Those years were full of acne, braces and hormones. I cringe thinking about the stretch of time I went to school with a very large and noticeable burn on my face (all photographic evidence has since been destroyed).

An abundance of uncreative short jokes, normally centered around me fitting into one of the lockers, were another highlight. In order to enact some vengeance, I would interject and tell them about my genetic disorder, which caused their face to become abnormally pale. It may have been slightly petty and vindictive, but I never claimed not to be. 

I played volleyball, but was not otherwise athletically inclined. My friend and I would eat and then spend the remainder of lunch in the library instead of the gym playing basketball with our peers. Yes, I know we were huge nerds. 

All of this means that when I walked across the stage for eighth grade “graduation,” I never planned on coming back. EVER.  My focus was solely on the future; high school, college and whatever might come after. Immediately after I walked off the stage, we flew to New York City and middle school became a distant memory I wasn’t planning to revisit. 

The five-year-age gap between my brother and I means that there are certain responsibilities expected of me as an older sister. I cook when mom’s not home, make sure the house gets cleaned the day before she comes back, drive James to practice and pick up groceries. One responsibility I didn’t expect was becoming a seventh grade student once again.

The pandemic hit in March and school was looking precarious when August rolled around. As a safety precaution, my parents decided to keep my younger brother James at home until they had a better idea of what was going to happen. Of course, the teachers in his school are focusing primarily on the in-person students. They zoom with the remote students once a week, but they are pretty much left on their own to complete assignments. 

Now, for a hyperactive kid, having access to an Xbox and a basketball court during school hours is dangerous. However, James has been extraordinarily disciplined. He gets up at the same time every morning and doesn’t touch any possible distractions until his school work is completed. 

It would be difficult for a student of any age to teach themselves and James sometimes  requires help. He’ll have a question, come find me and talk through it. Often, I end up absorbing the material so I can explain the question to him in a different way. I’ve relearned about the ancient Greeks and Romans in world studies, expressions in pre-algebra, the months of the year in Spanish, the water cycle in science and internal and external conflict in English. I’ve reread Percy Jackson and the Mike Lupica book he did a book report on. I have quite literally been taking seventh grade over again. 

Somehow, I think it’s gotten harder since last time.