60: Junior High Zoo

60: Junior High Zoo

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

Junior High Zoo

Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.

~Orson Scott Card

I was sitting on the hard, plastic chair in my English classroom, fidgeting restlessly. It was the lower grades’ recess, and I could hear them playing and laughing outside. I was green with envy. Don’t get me wrong, I love English class. I hope to become a writer, and English class gives me lots of practice. It just gets harder and harder to focus when the minute hand on the clock is getting closer and closer to lunchtime.

Mrs. Chappell, my favorite teacher, started passing out an article for my class to read. It was about a writer who told some students to write about one of three different subjects: “The Strangest Person You Have Ever Met,”

“The Stupidest Thing You Have Ever Done,” or “Advice for Junior High.” When we finished reading the captivating article, Mrs. Chappell told us to write something about one of the three subjects. It was the last one that caught my eye. We had fifteen short minutes. I grabbed my notebook and started scribbling on my paper. When I finished it I looked at the clock.

“Whew, just in time,” I muttered.

Mrs. Chappell then asked for a volunteer to read their paper. My hand instinctively shot up before I registered what she had said. Oops, I thought. Naturally, Mrs. Chappell called on me.

“I did my, um, paper on, um, advice for junior high,” I stammered, and then began to read aloud:

“Junior high is a zoo! It’s filled to the brim with a lot of naïve kids who all want to be top dog, but most of them are a completely different kind of animal. I consider myself a snake because I am hardly ever comfortable in my own skin. I have always been one of the quiet kids. When the spotlight is directed at me, I almost always say the wrong thing. Otherwise, I become like a parrot, simply echoing what the leaders of the flock say. Those leaders seem to be chameleons, because they change their appearance at just the right time to stay alive. There are also many mockingbirds in junior high, making fun of everything you say. But don’t let those people get under your skin. My advice is this: Don’t be a parrot, mockingbird, or snake. Be yourself, whatever animal you are, because that is the greatest gift you have.”

My words were met with a long silence. My heart was pounding with anxiety. Would they like it? Mrs. Chappell just stared at me with something between a smile and a look of disbelief. Then, someone started to clap. Soon, the rest of the class joined in. My heart swelled with pride. They liked it! I was so relieved. Just then the lunch bell rang. Everybody stopped their clapping and got up to get their lunches. I joined in. On my way to get my lunch, many of the kids (chameleons, mockingbirds, and parrots alike) complimented me and patted me on the back, saying they completely agreed with me. I hadn’t realized how universal those words might be to others until that very moment.

~Sara Hedberg

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