With twinkle lights lining the whiteboard, floral motifs hanging from the ceiling, and posters and personal items decorating the room, Flippin Hall room 108 brought me back to my Middle School days. Megan Hunt, a Middle School learning specialist, English and Reading teacher, and fifth grade advisor, was kind enough to let me drop by her classroom one day during collaboration time. I spoke with several of Hunt’s students, all of whom were fifth grade girls (class of ‘24), about their lives in the Middle School in an attempt to understand what it’s like to be a fifth grader again.
I asked the girls what they liked to talk about during free time at school, and I got answers ranging from Taylor Swift to Harry Potter. Eleanor C. is a die hard Harry Potter fan and enjoys discussing the books with her friends in their “Harry Potter fan club.” Sydney G. likes talking about music; her favorite artists are Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. Hadley P. laughs after I asked her this question, saying that she and her friends talk about “a lot of jokes.”
If you could get into a fifth grader’s head, what would you discover?
Vivian B. says that she typically thinks about “being nice and having a good attitude.” Chloe M. noted that she frequently thinks about whether she will get to class on time, something that I’m sure many Upper Schoolers still concern themselves with. Other students mentioned that they think about school and getting good grades.
When asked about what they worry about, the girls I spoke with shared concerns similar to those my Upper School friends and I have. Eleanor and Catherine said they worried about not getting good grades and not being prepared for tests, which everybody else agreed with.
Crossing the bridge from Lower School to Middle School can be an exciting change. When asked about her transition, Eleanor said that it has been “fun but sad,” adding that she “really liked [her] Lower School teachers.” Catherine, Hadley, and Vivian all echoed this, also mentioned how the role of their teachers had changed from taking care of them to letting them be more independent from Lower School to Middle School.
Hunt described how much she enjoys working in the Middle School saying, “I love teaching [Middle Schoolers] because they are willing to take intellectual risks and stretch their thinking. They also show up ready to learn each day and don’t take themselves too seriously. We laugh a lot!”
Sanjum S. is new to Collegiate this year. She says that so far, Collegiate “is fun,” sharing a laugh with her “Cougar Pal” Chloe while telling me this. (All new students have a peer “Cougar Pal” who helps introduce them to the school.) Although she was sad to leave her friends at her old school, she has made new friends here at Collegiate.
Something that stood out during my brief visit was how excited the fifth graders are for Brunch and Pageant, two Christmas-themed Collegiate productions. These events have been a part of Collegiate’s traditions for years, and participation for the girls for both events starts in fifth grade. The students I spoke with told me that they have been learning the hand movements that accompany the “12 Days of Christmas,” sung by the fifth grade girls at the beginning of Brunch. Playing cherubs in the Christmas pageant, the fifth grade girls receive halos that girls wear to Brunch for the next eight years. The fifth grade girls hadn’t received their halos when I spoke with them, but hopefully they will soon!
One thing that defined my Middle School experience was trends. When I was in fifth grade, the “big thing” was silly bandz. The girls told me about one of their current trends, these small pom-pom animals called “doodles.” Some girls make “doodles” for each other using the Makerspace in the library during free times. Other trends included the famous S’well water bottles, which are also making their way through the Upper School, Converse sneakers, and ponchos.
Everybody I talked with seemed to love Middle School. The girls were buzzing with excitement describing their lockers and readily told me how they liked switching classes and not having to stand in line. Hadley described liking the library, to which the other girls all nodded in agreement.
Middle School almost seemed too good to be true. Almost.
All of the girls shared their distaste with the P.E. warm up, specifically the push ups. Hadley mentioned how she wasn’t a big fan of all the projects, and Sydney said that she wasn’t too excited by the whole “learning” thing.
All understandable, particularly the push ups.
As a Middle School survivor, I closed by letting the girls ask me any questions they had. I was asked about my favorite class, with which I responded “math.” I was surprised to get nods of agreement from many of the girls in my vicinity, all of whom similarly liked math class. I had to recall my Middle School advisors as I was asked which ones I had, and I mentioned swimming when I was asked about my favorite sport.
Overall, I was surprised that I’ve forgotten many of the details from my fifth grade year. Despite this, I was reminded during my visit that my fifth grade self is still a part of me. The 30-minute collaboration time flew by, and I became nostalgic for the decorated classrooms, air of positivity, and excitement that comes with being in Collegiate’s Middle School.
All photos courtesy of Megan Hunt.