Character Sketch

I had my current 7th grade class as 4th and 5th graders, but when I accepted a new position as “head of the middle school language arts department” at our school, I got them again. (Titles are so pretentious, aren’t they?  That’s why I only make the kids use it when they’re making direct eye contact with me, which I rarely allow anyway.)

“Ugh,” I told them on the first day of school this year.  “You guys were my least favorite class. I was so glad to let you fly a couple of years ago.  And now I have to have you again.”

They stared at me, unsure of how to react.  Was I kidding?  Should they laugh?

“Are you joking?” one of them asked me.

“No,” I replied.

They laughed anyway, pleased that they’d had that effect on me in 4th and 5th grade.  Seventh graders are jerks like that.

Anyway, it is what it is, and I’ll now have them for two more years since “head of the middle school language arts department” in our school means “the only language arts teacher for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.”  So we’re kind of stuck with each other, and as I like to tell them—I’m lying right now; it’s they who have to tell me—we might as well make the most of it.

I have to say, they’ve constantly surprised me this year.  In mostly good ways.

The other day, I assigned them a character sketch in which they had to create and describe a fictitious character.  I told them to think about their character. How does this person dress?  What are his/her physical characteristics? How does he/she act? What happened in this person’s childhood to make him/her this way?

My seventh graders are writers.  This, actually, is one of the things that surprised me about them the most, something I hadn’t picked up on as well when I had them as elementary students.  They just seemed like they would be too COOL to enjoy writing. 

But they do enjoy it.  And they’re self-confident enough to not be scared to admit it.

“You guys are fantastic writers!” I exclaimed one day, pleased as punch.

“We know,” they replied, pencils moving furiously as they glanced up at me briefly—Why are you bothering us right now?—before getting back to work.

When I assigned the character sketch, I gave them about half the class period to complete it.  To help inspire them (because I’m nothing if not a person of complete and total inspiration; they’re very lucky to have me), I shared my computer screen to the smart board and began typing my own.

I got about two sentences projected when they started to shout suggestions out so quickly that I could hardly keep up—and I type fast.  When I clocked it last in high school typing class 28 years ago, I was at seventy-three words per minute, just 7 wpm behind the typing teacher herself.  She wasn’t too happy about that, but that’s a story for another post. 

By the second paragraph, I was laughing so hard I could hardly type.

When we were finished, I said to my 7th graders, “You guys need help.  Like serious psychological help.”

Here’s the character sketch that endeared them to me just a little bit more:


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