During 8th grade Advisory today, I gave my students a lecture about decision making and what all is involved when they are confronted with the choice to experiment with substances or not. I drew a huge flow chart on the board with 7 or 8 questions to consider while evaluating their own personal risk and safety, questions like: “Do I know and fully trust who I’m with?” “Am I dependent upon anyone for transportation?” “Do I know how my body will react to the substance?” and “Am I willing to accept the consequences of my actions, whatever they may be?” I told them if they answered “No” to any of these questions or any of the others, then they would be putting their lives at risk while experimenting. My students watched with concerned and serious faces. They asked real questions and brought to the table real stories of teenagers who’d been hurt seriously, or even killed, by becoming involved with substance abuse. Advisory is a really nice way for me this year to stay connected to my students from last year. They’re a little older, it’s not a real class, but we are talking about issues that are real to them, and I have the chance to be honest about the mistakes I’ve made in the past and show them how I have learned from those mistakes. We had such a close relationship last year and this year it is really nice to be able to deepen it.
Anyhow, after the drug discussion, we started talking about social issues going on in their lives. I remember 8th grade so vividly in my own life; wanting so badly to fit in but at the same time coming into my own individualism. It was an awkward time and didn’t stop being awkward until I left for college. Kids today told me about this person saying something, and then another person saying another thing. About how someone’s making fun of someone else’s butt, or the shape of someone’s nose. My point to them, in connection with teaching about Kindness, was to put forth an effort to make good things come out of your mouth when you talk, rather than criticism of other people. Be positive instead of negative and then no one will be making fun of anyone.
“Ms. C,” a boy called from the back of the class. “May I share another story?”
“Of course,” I said, and after I’d quieted the talkers down, I said, “Go ahead.”
“I have three nipples,” he said.
I looked around to see the other kids’ faces. “It’s true!” they all shouted, laughing and pointing. And before I knew it, the boy was pulling his shirt down for me to see. Sure enough, a third nipple. I and everyone else, including the boy, burst out laughing.
“It’s actually from surgery,” he said, “but it looks just like a nipple.” He was right. I wondered what the point of his story was, until I realized he was trying to tell his classmates that everyone has something personal that they have to get over. The message was that everyone has an insecurity and the point is to revel in it. Enjoy it. Own it. Love the big butt or the weird nose or the third nipple. Love that you’re a book worm, or a quiet student. Love that you dance. Love that you know Math really well. Love that you have long fingers or short fingers or size eleventy-billion shoes.
Advisory moved on from the nipple comment but that boy’s message will stick with me for a while.