Between bullying and school violence, metal detectors and school uniforms—and then there’s math homework, kids from Chicago and its suburbs have a lot on their minds as school gets set to start.
They worry about hate. They worry about standing up for their friends. And they worry about being the third wheel when their best friend gets a boyfriend in middle school.
They know there will always be homework to finish, reading logs to fill out and sports practices to attend. They have learned how to regulate that while trying to walk the maze of adolescence.
Kids from around Chicagoland met each other and talked to Chicago Parent about what they’re excited about for the school year and what they are already worried about. They bonded over Fortnite and pizza, and at the end, there were a few exchanges of Snapchat profile names to stay in touch.
How do you deal with bullying in school?
“We all made posters and had a big talk about it at school. If someone is bullying me, I ignore it, then tell my parents and my parents email the teacher.” -Ashland
“Either I get really heated and ask if I can leave the room, or I ignore them.” -Jaeden
“Ignore the living crud out of them.” -Kylie
“I’m kind of weird, so sometimes people will be like, ‘you’re weird,’ so I say ‘thank you, you are, too.’ We’re all weird, so they complimented me, so I’m complimenting you. We’re all weird, everyone is weird, it’s cool.” -Cora
“My mom says, ‘just say that is not nice, stop please.'” -Galilea
“One of the reasons bullying was able to grow at our school was that the administration didn’t do much about it. So, for example, a lot of kids were making jokes about extremely sensitive topics like rape and autism and stuff. I sent an email to the vice principal and she told them to stop, but they did not.” -Keegan
When you see things on TV about violence in other schools, what do you think about?
“It’s terrifying that it’s an issue we need to face.” -Keegan
“I watched this series on Netflix called `13 Reasons Why.’ This girl killed herself because of people bullying her. The whole year was just psycho, people started getting really, really violent, it was happening all year. I would have transferred to a different school because it’s really bad for kids to experience that.” -Janaya
“It makes me want to move to a different country.” -Ashland
“I kind of want to move, because in our school, they have had only like one drill for an active shooter.” -Macy
“And they didn’t take it seriously, because you could hear giggling from another room and it turned out later it was a teacher. We learned that downstairs all the little kids were being quiet, but the teachers were (shushing). It was the first lockdown drill we’d had in a long time and I was in eighth grade.” -Cora
Was it hard to go back to school after the Parkland shooting?
“The kids that shoot up the school are the kids who had been bullied.” -Janaya
“Or the kids who have access to guns, so they shouldn’t have access to those guns.” -Cora
“If I were in charge, I would make weapon access only available to the military and police. The military can have guns, but no random person can have guns.” -Ashland
When you have bullying or violence in schools, is it hard or easy to become active in your school?
“Kind of hard, because a lot of kids don’t look like you.” -Ashland
“It’s hard because a lot of people don’t.” -Jaeden
“It’s kind of hard because the so-called cool kids try to run the school.” -Eswin
“Student activism is iffy. I have done protests and stuff, but it was not connected to school. There’s not much student activism, really. There hasn’t been an activism voice, so when the walkouts happened (in April), it was the first time they had to deal with it, so they locked the doors.” -Keegan
“It’s hard because I’m not popular, but I’m also not someone who gets bullied all the time. People still say things, and it’s harder to (get involved) because I’m not popular and you don’t want to say something that’s going to get you targeted.” -Sydney
What should parents know about going to school every day?
“That some kids are bad and some kids are good and which one do you trust?” -Payton
“I wish my parents knew that some kids are always going to be mean to other people, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t go telling the teacher every time because they aren’t going to change.” -Cora
“That there are a lot of bad kids who say bad words.” -Jaeden
“That lunch is sometimes terrible.” –Eswin
“There are bullies that are mean.” -Galilea
“That sometimes kids are going to act awesome in front of teachers and then once your back is turned, they change.” -Sydney
“That some people are two-faced, they’re your friend, then when you’re away they talk about you.” -Macy
“Parents think going to school is easy, and that having a job is harder. Going to school is hard and we should get paid to go to school.” -Janaya
What do you wish teachers knew about being in school?
“How kids are one way to adults and another way to kids. Also, how hard it is to get up at 6 in the morning, get all your stuff ready and get to school and be ready to learn at 8:15.” -Ashland
“If you talk to a student about bullying, it doesn’t mean it’s going to stop happening. Just because they’ve been talked to by a teacher, you have to keep an eye out and you have to keep talking to them, because it’s going to keep happening.” -Sydney
“How kids sometimes act when their back is turned.” -Payton
“There are a lot of kids who treat kids differently when they’re alone than how they treat them when an adult is near them.” -Macy
“Never turn your back on a classroom full of middle schoolers. Also, never look away from a class of middle schoolers and never leave technology around a class of middle schoolers.” -Cora
“People that you know are friends, don’t sit them next to each other in class.” -Kylie
“They should know how difficult they make their homework.” -Eswin
“I would like teachers to know how unfair they make life for kids with homework and their favorites.” -Jaylyn
“How bad it makes kids feel when you raise your hand and the teacher picks a favorite and then comes back and says, `I would like to see more hands come up.'” -Jaeden
“We’re teenagers, we’re not going to be able to get together and sing happy songs together. We are going to have disagreements, and it’s going to be ugly.” -Keegan
What are you looking forward to the most this school year?
“I’m looking forward to the 3D printer and being able to print things up and making weird, cool designs.” -Cora
“I’m looking forward to reading, social studies and my Mindcraft Club that one of my teachers is asking me to teach.” -Ashland
“It’ll be my first year in middle school, so I’m looking forward to switching classes. I’ve been with the same class since second grade, so I’m looking forward to getting to know kids in the other classes. And math.” -Macy
“Lunch, math and recess.” -Jaeden
“A really good school. And I’m looking forward to spending time with my cousin, who is coming into the school.” -Galilea
“Reading, because I love to read. This is my last year before high school, so I’m looking forward to that.” -Sydney
What are you not looking forward to this year?
“Social studies.” -Payton
“We only get three minutes between passing periods, so that’s going to have to be quick. And I don’t like reading.” -Macy
“Science. It might be better this year, because last year my teacher was a really tough grader. Also for me, math is really, really boring.” -Sydney
“I’m not looking forward to having to bring my own school lunch and having to pay for my lunch.” -Cora
“Social studies, math, science and bullies.” -Galilea
“Reading; it’s just so boring.” -Jaeden
This article originally appeared in the August issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.