Alcoholics, drug addicts, perverts, misogynists, bullies, bible thumpers, narcissists, racists, thieves, gangsters, murder. Junior High. Junior Hell. Eye-popping behavior occurred on campus during my three decades teaching at a highly-rated junior high school in Southern California. Whether or not you're in the education arena, a parent of teens or currently a teenager in or out of junior high, this unique read will affect you. You might cry, laugh or possibly question the authenticity of my stories. However, I had no need to make-believe, exaggerate or embellish a single incident. Besides, I couldn't make this stuff up in my wildest dreams.
The vast majority of my students, their parents and my colleagues were hard-working, enjoyable people and many humorous and inspirational stories about them are shared. That said, from my quirky perspective, the most incredible and entertaining tales sprouted from the outrageous behavior of various adolescents and adults. As Journalist Silas Bent observed, "Harmony seldom makes a headline." No one was spared, and to my chagrin, that included me. Teaching junior high prepared me to air my dirty laundry without consequence. A "Mother Goose and Grimm" comic strip by Mike Peters validated the rhino skin acquired by veteran teachers of adolescents: A matronly woman whistled joyfully down the corridors of hell. A nearby devil whispered to his buddy, "Forget it. We'll never get to her...she used to be a JUNIOR HIGH TEACHER."
Most of my lunch hours were spent with students. I was that teacher who avoided the teachers' lounge. I was also the only teacher that lived in the same lower socioeconomic neighborhood as my students. The family dynamics, diverse cultures and unique personalities of many of my students were well understood before the first day of school. Living amongst students established a unique, organically-grown bond that transcended the role of teacher. Engaging students required morphing into a recycled teenager, a mother figure, a cheerleader or counselor as needed. Invitations to their parties were heartwarming. They also confided in me in a way they couldn't with other teachers or even their parents. We spent countless hours in my living room both laughing and crying together.
Flashbacks of my horrific rookie years are sprinkled throughout Part I, whereby a daily journal of my 11th year of teaching is revealed. Due to unforeseen circumstances, that year remains the most emotionally charged period of my life, personally and professionally. Continuing to teach at the same school for the following two decades, the floodgates exploded with increasingly zany stuff, shared in Part II. Part III highlights the most memorable moments of my career. Part IV offers fascinating insight into the thoughts and feelings of adolescents.
This book is the result of a suggestion from my dear late husband whom I regularly bombarded with schoolyard stories. His encouragement to document my stories was sufficient motivation to scribble snippets of remarkable incidents early on. I didn't get serious about writing for over a decade. Prior to retirement in 2011, my final group of students was assigned a unique set of questions. Enticed that their answers might find a place in a book I was writing, they delivered and I kept my word. My blossoming passion to write is best described by actress and best-selling author Shirley Maclaine, "I'm very interested in how insane everybody is. That's why I write."