Middle School Meet Dakota

Our son Dakota is now in sixth grade which in Arizona means that he is no longer in elementary school and is now in middle school. I totally don’t understand the middle school concept. Back in my day we didn’t have a middle school. We kept sixth graders in the grade school. Seventh, eighth, and ninth grades went to Junior High then there was high school. Of course in my day we had to walk 20 miles in the snow to get to school and we didn’t have spiral notebooks. We used ink wells and wrote with our fingers in the air. Ok that last part was made up just for the benefit of my children who still think that my high school sweetheart grew up and married Noah because he had a boat. I have a long history with this middle school and very little of it is good.

This is the school that banned me from all science fairs after the “Flat Earth Fiasco of 1998” where I somehow convinced an entire grade that the earth was flat using nothing but a quarter. Regardless of what those kids say, I am not the one responsible for the entire state now being required to take exit tests from school to prove they have gained the appropriate knowledge before graduation. This is just one example of my track record with this particular school. As a result, Trina is usually the one that has to deal the school.

That has not been a bad thing really. The school seems much less confused and the PTO has ceased calling our house asking if we are interested in selling and relocating to another district. In past years the school has only had to deal with our daughters who seem to take after their mother more than their father. Now though we are unleashing the curse upon the school. No I am not talking about the razor blades. Instead I am talking about my mother’s curse.

I had no idea that my mother had delved into the black arts of voodoo and magic but I am now a firm believer. I always thought of myself as a relatively normal child; an assessment that I have realized may have been incorrect. Being a model child I was therefore shocked whenever my mother would tip over about such simple things as finding out her microwave had been used as an experimental lab for seeing a common house fly’s life span when its molecules had been excited; attempting to train the neighbor’s cat to become an astronaut by seeing how long it could withstand the fluff cycle in the dryer. One time my mom got so tipped over she just stood there getting all red in the face. Finally after several seconds; it happened. She became a witch and placed a curse upon me. In a fit of rage she screamed, “One day you will have a son just like you!”

At the time I remember thinking, cool I’ll have someone to talk to and who’ll finally understand me. It was not until we had Dakota that I realized the evil that my mother had proclaimed upon the world. Don’t get me wrong; Dakota is a great kid. Other kids love being around him and coolness just oozes from him. Even the older kids’ friends want to hang out with Dakota. The thing is, that boy is just not wired right. It got to the point that we just had no idea what he was going to say or do. Not that it is wrong; it is just not normal or average.

When Dakota reached school age I knew there were going to be problems just because I remember my parents coming to the school for all kinds of things. I therefore took it upon myself to do a pre-emptive apology. On “meet the teacher” night I would bring a bouquet of flowers along with a card that simply stated, “I am sorry in advance for any damage mental or emotional that my son may be responsible for.” That worked pretty well in elementary school or at least kept us both out of the principal’s office. Things are a little different in middle school.

In middle school we are dealing with a lot more teachers. On the one hand that’s good because the damage can be spread across a larger population. On the other hand, teachers seem to talk to one another and it doesn’t take long for things to escalate.

The cool thing about the school system we are in is that the teachers communicate a lot not just about students but they also coordinate their teaching so that each class builds on the others to help the kids understand how things are connected. Take for example the current assignment. With baseball season winding down the teachers have all gotten together and created a unit based on the best sport in the world. Each class is going to focus on something baseball related.

In their home room each student will be assigned a Major League Baseball team. This team will be the focus of their studies over the next few weeks. In science they will study the physics of pitching and what it takes to throw a curveball or a fastball. They are learning about rotation and velocity. In social studies they will need to find where their team is located. They will also need to locate the other 29 major league baseball cities on a map. In math the students will track the team and their statistics similarly to what is done for fantasy baseball. They will figure Earned Run Average and Batting Averages. In language arts the students will write letters to the team they are assigned to ask if they will send swag that they can use to create a display showing the results at the end of the project.

On paper you would think this would be the perfect assignment especially for someone like Dakota. When the teachers introduced the concept he came home very excited and could hardly wait to go to school. He just assumed he would get the Arizona Diamondbacks and he already had plans to bring in his various artifacts he had collected throughout the season. Unfortunately things did not go exactly according to plan.

Dakota went to school the next day eager for the beginning of the baseball unit. The teacher came around and handed each child a sealed envelope containing the name of the team they would be working with. The kids eagerly opened their envelopes to find out what franchise they would be connected to. Dakota tore his open and read the contents. His heart sank. He waited for the commotion to die down then he went up to the teacher’s desk. She looked at him and he said, “If you don’t mind I’ll just take the ‘F’ now.”

The teacher looked at him confused. Dakota handed her the contents of his envelope. “There is absolutely no way I can do the Los Angeles Dodgers; my dad would kill me or I would kill myself.” Sadly, he was extremely serious. The teacher merely said, “oh yeah you’re right I forgot about your dad.” I am not exactly sure what that meant. The teacher therefore went around the room and rearranged the assignments and returned with a new piece of paper.

“Do you think it would be ok if you got the Chicago Cubs?” she asked.

“Yeah, that should be ok; my dad is a recovering Cubs fan.” Dakota said. The teacher bit her lip so as not to laugh and Dakota made his way back to his seat. When he got home from school he came to find me. At first I thought he had tried to microwave his sister’s polyester socks again the way he was acting. Instead he just wanted to let me know that he was going to have to write to the Cubs and not the Diamondbacks. I tried to be supportive as best as I could so I told him, “That’s ok, those people have been suffering for almost 100 years. They deserve your help.” Yeah my mom’s curse seems to be alive and well dwelling in the body of an 11 year-old boy that is terrorizing the sixth grade.

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