Middle School Chronicles, Episode 1
It’s clear that writing about middle school will be a regular thing as our family navigates with one child who is right now in their second year of middle school, with two more joining him next year. Alas, let’s just start where we are.
Last week I posted somewhat vaguely on Facebook about a mom who reached out to me regarding her child being concerned about some harassment Quinn was receiving in school. This child admitted that it was coming from within Quinn’s group of friends, and it seemed like sometimes the boys were friends with him and sometimes they’d gang up on him. I didn’t get the details of names except for a couple of kids who never participate. The child who came home and told their mom, who in turn told me, was just being an overall good kid and was concerned and doesn’t want to see anyone treated that way.
I spoke with Quinn about it later that night. Somewhat indirectly, as I’ve learned there are certain pathways into conversations where he’ll really open up. Similar to his father, Quinn seems to be adept at letting things roll off his back. This is an extremely valuable life skill, to be sure, but I dug in a little deeper to get his feelings on this perceived harassment. Quinn didn’t divulge names (he rarely does), so I can’t go to the parents directly. And, he didn’t want me to. Rather, I told him if he ever wants me to go to the principal or parents to tell me. That’s been our procedure in the past and it’s worked well—he will say things like, “Yeah, can you talk to the teacher/principal about xyz,” and we go from there. Quinn did say that the harassment wasn’t all the time and he is generally confused by when it will happen or why, and just tries to go on with his day.
A week later, this past Friday, I got a phone call from the middle school’s vice principal, with whom I’ve had zero communication up to this point. He told me that a teacher brought the aforementioned situation to his attention. Similar to the story from the child discussed earlier, a teacher spoke to the vice principal about a group of five boys who harass Quinn off and on. What proved confusing to both the teacher and the vice principal is a few of these kids are kids they see Quinn hanging out with at lunch and recess regularly. Friends. The vice principal said that he corralled the five boys into his office (Quinn is unaware of this) and told them he’d received reports from a teacher about harassment behavior. In his words he, “read them the riot act.” Then, he told the boys that if he caught wind of anything like this happening again, or if he saw it himself, he wouldn’t wait for a parent or teacher and he would file a bullying report himself.
The vice principal said he might try to bring Quinn into his office this week just to check in, but he wanted to give some distance between bringing the group of boys in to avoid it looking like Quinn was the one who “tattled” because that can make it much worse. He said whenever possible he puts the “telling” onto a teacher or staff member because of the nature of kids’ behavior in this arena.
I don’t know if the parents of these kids were told what’s been going on, and I didn’t ask. And, again, I need to stress that I don’t know which boys they are. What I do know is I feel positive about this interaction with the vice principal and how the situation is being handled. It seems the processes the school has in place for this behavior have worked and are working in this situation.
Quinn is kind of an easy target in some ways. A gentle giant, he’s been unlikely until recently to fight back physically or verbally (he did tell me last week that he shoved a kid on the playground who was being a real asshole—someone he’s had problems with before), and he has a really naïve and easygoing demeanor. Unfortunately, kids with insecurities will pounce on this and try to ruffle him. Thus far, it hasn’t worked this year.
I hate that middle school is “thick skin training ground,” but I’m grateful for the adults who are advocating for our kids day in and day out.