When I first began teaching in the Middle School, I taught 6th graders. The topic was medieval history and it must be said that for the first time in more than 20 years as a teacher, I was a little afraid that September. I knew many 6th graders and had been the parent of one not that long ago; I’d talked to other teachers and read a truckload about middle school. But this was my middle school and these 6th graders were my responsibility. I was nervous; maybe a little terrified.
Almost at once, my 6th graders put me at ease. They eagerly absorbed our discussions of the medieval world and then just as happily shot out the door for a recess game of tag. Life was joyful and they were the very definition of exuberance. Those children charmed me.
JT, then on the cusp of 14 years old and with the sanguine disrespect that is 8th grade, immediately nicknamed my 6th graders “the niblets.” I embraced the name as quickly as the niblets had embraced me. The niblets were my students once again as 7th graders. This year, another history teacher had the pleasure of their company. But I saw them every day and enjoyed that fact very much.
Last week, I accompanied the niblets on their 8th grade trip to Washington D.C.
At the end of the week I proudly called their names as, one-by-one, they walked across the stage at our Middle School closing. I have watched them go from awkward 11 and 12 year old 6th graders to much taller, deeper-voiced, and maturing 13 and 14 year old 8th graders. The last three years have passed in the blink of an eye and now they headed off to the world of high school and years that, unbelievably, will pass even faster. But they are enthusiastically ready for all that is coming their way, which is part of their enduring charm.
There was a catch in my throat as some of niblets walked past me to shake hands with the principal and grasp their certificate. These kids taught me as much about myself as I taught them and I will always have a soft spot for them. After all, they’re the niblets.