Sunday, April 13, 2014

Anne Frank: A Heroine for Today's Teen

You are going into hiding for two years.  You have ten minutes to pack your school backpack.  What are you going to bring?  

This is how I start my Diary of Anne Frank unit.  Confronted with the unthinkable concept of stuffing everything they own into a JanSport, the students are immediately riveted.  Then of course comes the inevitable question – “I can take my iPhone right?”

As the educational pendulum continues to push out longer literary works in favor of shorter informational texts, I maintain The Diary of Anne Frank is worth the read and a relevant mainstay in the middle school classroom canon.   

Against a background of unbelievably horrific events, students are continually captivated by the diary’s universal talking points of family, survival, nobility, adolescence, identity and courage.  Students are especially interested in Anne’s periodic tensions with her mother, her growing romance with Peter, and of course the inordinate amount of bravery needed to survive life in the attic and an unknowing future. 

Perhaps it is Anne’s profound life quotes revealing wisdom beyond her years that pull at my students’ heartstrings -

 “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

 “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

“I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

“Whoever is happy will make others happy.”

And finally the most heartfelt, and profound, that epitomizes Anne’s magnanimous persona:
“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

The Diary of Anne Frank triumphs in today’s classroom because of the essence of our young author’s message:  Hope in the face of adversity.  Perhaps best stated by one of my students, “Anne Frank has inspired me to live life to the fullest and never lose hope no matter what.”

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How to Survive the Super Mean Girl

An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School 

Just like there are S.M.T.’s (Super Mean Teachers) in middle school, there are S.M.G.’s – (Super Mean Girls).  (Pssst, some S.M.G.’s even grow up to be S.M.T.’s.)  We can pretty much guarantee you will probably have to deal with an S.M.G. in middle school.  This is because the social hierarchy intensifies.  Cliques get clique-ier, which means girls get meaner.  But what you have to understand is the “mean factor” stems from a desire to feel powerful.  We know that doesn’t make it any easier to accept, but to understand why girls can be mean may help you deal with it.

Before moving on, let’s contrast girls with guys.  Of course there are S.M.G.’s (Super Mean Guys), too.  But they are an entirely different breed.  At their worst, guys will just call each other some unmentionables, have a fistfight, only to throw hoops and be friends an hour later.  With girls, it’s much more sinister, covert, and under the table.

Enter the S.M.G.:  She’ll roll her eyes at you, smirk, and whisper something to her B.F.F. as you walk by.  Then she’ll laugh.  You brush it off and think it’s just happenstance.  Maybe she’s talking about someone else.  But the next time you see her at lunch she mutters, “Nice clothes.  Where do you shop, the Good Will?”  She’ll continue bashing you to her friends by cutting down your clothes, hair, and overall personality, only to finish with an “Am I mean?”  And you can’t really tell an adult because 1) tattling is considered really lame in middle school and 2) she hasn’t done anything super bad.  Still, you feel terrible and want to cry.  Why?  Because S.M.G.’s never took Kindness 101.  She’s a Super Mean Girl and she’s getting to you, which is exactly what she wants to do.  

So – here’s how to deal:

First, confront the S.M.G. when she’s alone and without her entourage.  Ask what you did to upset her.  This will probably get her to stop.  Most S.M.G.’s don’t expect or like to be confronted.

Every mean girl group has an alpha or a queen bee, who’s like the ring leader.  If you befriend the alpha queen bee, her followers will most likely leave you alone (unless it’s the alpha who’s being the S.M.G.).

If the S.M.G. is talking about you with her S.M.G. clique, you have a few options.  You can 1) ignore them, 2) laugh it off, or 3) stare them right in the eyes.  Whatever you do, look super confident (head up, shoulders back) so not to appear intimidated.  Don’t look at the ground or act schlumpy.  Always appear poised and in control, and never resort to physical violence!  

It’s hard but try not to cry.  If the S.M.G. sees peer-tears, she knows she “has you,” which is what she wants – power and control.

Know that chances are the S.M.G. will get tired of picking on you and stop.  She rarely sticks with one victim and you probably aren’t her only target.  Just remember that you’re awesome and she’s obviously jealous of something you possess (beauty, brains, personality, all three).  Stick with your own group of friends who love you.


S.M.G.’s are bad, but there is a world of difference between her and the cyberbully.  With just the click of a mouse, a cyberbully can ruin someone’s life – permanently.  It’s a serious offense and in a few extreme cases has even led to suicide.

First, know what a cyberbully is.  A cyberbully:

1. Pretends they are someone else online in order to trick or obtain information
2. Spreads lies and rumors about other people
3. Sends or forwards hurtful messages or texts  
4. Posts pictures of others without their consent or in embarrassing situations, like changing in the locker room.

This is nothing to fool around with.  If you come across a cyberbully, identify them and block all communication.  Go and report it to an adult immediately, such as a teacher, counselor, or parent.  And never, ever retaliate with your own cyber attack.  For more information, there are helpful websites such as