penguinhuddlesmall┬áI had another observer the other day. Cal Poly, the local state college (and my alma mater), sends us quite a few. In order to get into the credential program these days, you have to have an ungodly number of hours of observation under your belt. I guess they want to make sure that you really know what you’re getting yourself into. The ones who want to be English teachers always come in thinking they want to teach high school… and leave thinking junior high kids are the cutest things ever, and omg I think I want to teach middle school now.


That’s all well and good if you are an Alpha dawg and can put the pups in their place. But most of these noobs just want to hug them.


Anyway, the latest young ‘un was there bright and early the other morning. Our VP brought her out to me while I was patrolling the yard. Our school has two outdoor quads, and in the mornings the seventh graders congregate┬áin one and the eighth graders in the other. (They have separate lunches because our cafeteria won’t hold ’em all.) There is some intermingling and some kids hang in the between-lands, but it’s almost like two separate habitats. I was in the seventh grade quad, up on a concrete planter, surveying the scene, twirling the stick, and riding herd on them lil doggies.

“Lose the gum. Keep your hands to yourself. Slow down there cowboy. That looks like copying to me. You wouldn’t want me to throw them both away would you? Please stop blocking the hall. MOOOOOOVE! Do you have your vocab homework today? Then what are doing out here lounging…get to the library and do it! Keep your hands to yourself. What? They have breakfast burritos going in the cafeteria?! I don’t high-five. Ok, fist bump. Lose the gum. Hey! Stop it! NOW!”

I stepped down, and after some pleasantries, she says, “This is such such good people watching.”

People watching. How cute. She thinks they’re people. (Newcomers to this blog should understand that this is a joke.)

(me) “Yes, it’s usually pretty entertaining. Let’s observe this little group over here…”

Have you ever noticed that middle school kids tend to bunch together into groups that look a whole lot like penguin huddles? Especially the boys. They all circle around the few core kids, and the huddle sort of pulses with departures of kids on the fringe and arrivals who take their places.

“Watch that kid there. He’s been really sporty all morning. Probly Red Bull for breakfast. Watch as he starts to poke at the nearby kid. Now the old half-spin-that-uses-the-backpack-as-a-battering-ram. Now the poke and run. Now the huddle is restless. Oh, he’s coming back in for more…”


The huddle disperses and reforms elsewhere. Some stragglers try to join another that has formed by the lockers.

(future English teacher) “Wow, They have a lot of energy, don’t they?”

No way, really?