Time Traveling Back to Middle School

One of the early stories, written while I was still in college, about a year after I began submitting stories, was titled “The Guardian Angel Project.” It was a fantasy about a grown up (me?) going back to middle school and helping out the younger version of myself during those tough times. I never sold the story, and it collected quite a few rejection slips.

I can’t imagine I am the only one to ever imagine going back in time to when I was in middle school (or high school), taking with me all of my current wisdom and knowledge as a kind of secret weapon.

Well, I have a confession to make.

For the last six months I have been traveling back to middle school on an almost daily basis, taking all of my current wisdom and knowledge along with me, and it is not nearly as fun as I thought it would be. In fact, it is down right frustrating. You see, no matter how hard I try, I find it is impossible to use that wisdom and knowledge to make any difference whatsoever.

The Little Man started middle school this year, and he has been distance-learning most of the year thus far. Since my office is in the next room from where he does his distance learning, I feel like I am sitting in his classes with him, day in and day out, listening to the teacher and the students do their daily dance. The teacher asks questions, and the students answer.

And I hold my breath and turn blue.

“Can anyone tell me the difference between weather and climate?” Picture me as Arnold Horshack from Welcome Back Kotter, hand in the air, going, “Oooh, oooh, oooh!”

I can absolutely tell you the difference between weather and climate. But of course, I can’t do this. To give my son the answer would be as bad as telling my past self the names of the winners of all of the World Series from 1985-2020. (While I was at it, I might as well tell him to stock up on toilet paper in late 2019.)

“Each snowflake is unique,” a teacher says.

“Yes,” I want to say, “but they also have important similarities. They are six-sided and somewhat symmetrical because of the angle of the chemical bonds between hydrogen and oxygen atoms.” I want to shout out the answers like I do when watching Jeopardy (there in the form of questions, of course).

Kelly often accuses me of giving too much information when trying to explain some concept in the Little Man’s books or assignments. (“Actually, you can take the square root of -1, it’s just not something you’ve learned yet. But there are good reasons for having it, the first of which is that i and -i squared have to equal something.”) Sitting through these classes day in and day out makes me want to over-explain everything that he is learning, to give the background, the history, to fill in the gaps that would have made it easier for me to learn things.

If sitting through these classes has done anything, it has made me realize what a terrible idea it would be to go back into the past with all of my wisdom and knowledge and try to revisit middle school. If I had to write my “Guardian Angel Project” story all over again, I’d make it a miserable experience for my main character, and he’d be sorry from the outset that he ever went back.

One comment

  1. I like the analogy you’ve drawn here. I also do a lot of over-explaining to our kids, but it turns out that in some ways it can help. So, for example, I taught our kids a lot of civics information before they ever had it in school. When their teachers asked the class if anyone knew who their elected representatives were, our kids already knew.


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