Welcome to the Show


Like every other teacher (and kid, of course) across the country, I have been putting big X’s on my calendar to count down the days of school. Note that my countdown routine has not changed since I was in 3rd grade. I start in April (some years November) and then proceed to inform everyone in my life of the count until the very last day.  That’s always a big hit with my “regular job” friends.  At runnerchica press time, I have four and a half days left.  By the time you read this, it may be three and a half.  But who’s counting.

During this countdown, there are certain markers that let me know the end is near. My annual spring marathon is one of them- I find that training and preparing for months is a nice distraction when work (school) and Wisconsin’s never ending winter could otherwise put me in quite a funk.  After my mid-May marathon, I have hit another milestone, and know that I just need to get through Memorial Day. Then it’s the home stretch, baby. One of the highlights of the home stretch is my middle school’s annual talent show as it’s like a victory party for surviving another year with 6th-8th graders.

Each year at show time, I am sentimental, exhausted from 9 months of teaching, and fearful… that the pack of wolves otherwise known as 12-14 year olds will eat the brave performers alive.  To the outsider, or alien perhaps, all events tied to this hour long affair are probably quite entertaining.  6th, 7th, and 8th graders are dismissed from their classes in what is meant to be an orderly fashion. In reality, it’s more like the running of the bulls, as students trample to the school’s theater.  Once inside, teachers scramble, trying to make sure the “hooligans” sit apart and the “good kids” (relatively speaking) are seated and quiet. The aisles are then lined with teachers ready to pounce on anyone threatening to insult those on stage. Translation- say anything that could send these poor performers to therapy, and you’re dead meat.

However, for some miraculous reason, when the lights dim, and the curtain opens for the first act, the animals become human again, and “get” how brave those on stage are.  The hotshot hecklers are quiet and still.  The teachers stop worrying about the hecklers, and focus on the kids on stage who are amazing for simply having the guts to be there, let alone perform. (Personally, at this point, I whispered to the guidance counselor that if I were on stage, the school nurse would need to be nearby, with paddles in hand.)

This year, two girls started the show wearing pink tutus. I wasn’t sure if they were going to dance, sing, or lip sync. They did all of the above… to a song called “The Show.”  The lyrics were absolutely perfect for this audience, although I’m not sure the kids considered them as deeply as this runnerchica did.

That said, before I continue, it’s important to review what it’s like to be 13, that wonderful time in life when absolutely everything about your body, social circle, and psyche change on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. You are under the constant scrutiny of friends to “be cool” and teachers and parents to “be good.”  Anything you say, do, or wear is a huge risk, for it could leave you friendless and a “total geek” by 4th hour.  Best years of your life… not.

So, when this song began with “I’m just a little bit caught in the middle. Life is a maze and love is a riddle…” the girls had my attention.  They went on to say, “I’m so scared, but I don’t show it.  I can’t figure it out; it’s bringing me down.  I know I’ve got to let it go and just enjoy the show…”

As they sang, I scanned the crowd and saw how true these lyrics were for every sassy middle schooler. Then I thought of everyone in that theater- teachers, parents, and administrators.  I thought of how these lyrics are right on, no matter how old you are. While more intense for middle schoolers… isn’t life pretty much a maze for all of us? From the smallest of questions (which fall marathon should I do?) to life’s more challenging questions (Should I quit my job? Write a book? Move to Georgia?), aren’t we all just trying to figure it out?

I’m pretty sure we are. So, with the thought that figuring out life is something we all must do, on some level or another, I think it’s best we follow the advice of the two middle school girls and “… let it go… And just enjoy the show.”

Then, it really doesn’t matter how many days of school are left… because we’ll be making each one count to the fullest.

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