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This is 13

Recently, my students in 7th grade English completed a writing assignment entitled “This is ___________”. It was an assignment drawn from a Kelly Gallagher seminar I attended last year and based upon writing found on the Huffington Post.

The assignment focused on using a mentor text to help students write with more detail and with more confidence. Our current study of The Giver also relates to this writing assignment, as we contemplated what life was like for Jonas in his community, where sameness is emphasized and little value is placed on individuality or life in general.

We contrasted these beliefs with ours, which emphasize God as a creative designer, making each of us unique in His image and giving us individual gifts and talents to use in His kingdom.

Yet, as many of you may remember, being ‘13’ or in ‘middle school’ has its own challenges. Below, you will find some snippets of students’ writing, celebrating their individuality but also taking stock of the joys and pains of being “In the Middle”.

  • “Thirteen is the way to adulthood. You are finally a teenager.”
  • “I’m more confident at 13. I feel more confident when I meet new people.”
  • “13 is shaping your future. Dreaming. Dreaming of a job: owning an ice cream shop, being a teacher or a photographer.”
  • “13 is style. It’s when you stop wearing basketball shorts and a clown shirt to school.”
  • “13 is crying, being grumpy, being rude, and cranky. But is also means friends, sports, laughing, and memories.”
  • “13 is being wrapped up in 15 texts at the same time…”
  • “Middle school is long nights finishing homework you forgot and early mornings getting on the bus.”
  • “Middle school is like a roller-coaster. It has many twists and turns and ups and downs.”
  • “13 is trying to decide who you are.”
  • “13 is trying to never let the things of this world get in the way of your relationship with God.”
  • “13 is the beginning of a rebellious mind set towards people that you don’t necessarily respect.”
  • “Thirteen is knowing that you are a Christian, but also knowing that you do not know all about Christianity.”
  • “Thirteen is the storm of life. It’s when everything seems to go wrong. It’s when life is turned upside down as soon as you think you had everything figured out.”
  • “Thirteen…is my life…my storm…my adventure…my now.”

The jumbled mix of living in a 13-year-old body spilled out into these heartfelt, surprising, sad, poignant, joyful, hopeful, fearful, happy – but most of all honest – essays. Last week we welcomed our grandparents and grandfriends into our classroom and they pored over these, intrigued with the 13-year-old expressions of happiness, humor, and sometimes even heartache.

I thought all of you in the blogosphere might enjoy a glimpse at the world through the eyes of a 13-year-old too.

As their teacher, I’m privileged to have these windows into their hearts and souls through their writing. God has been writing HIS story on their hearts, and one of the most encouraging parts of reading through these essays was seeing how these wonderfully, unique, made-in-His-image 13 year-olds express their sense of God’s presence in their lives and His call on their hearts.

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