The Take-Away: Life Lessons I Wish All Middle Schoolers Knew, Part Three: One Is the Loneliest Number

The Take-Away Part Three

As I have touched on in Parts One and Two (click to visit them), the desire to fit in is almost inescapable when you are a middle schooler, and for many, this drive continues long after eighth grade.  And while some students struggle with this more than others, I can say from personal experience (as both a teacher and a student), all young people battle this to a certain degree:  some are just better at covering it than others.  Finding others like themselves–with similar interests, skills, and hobbies–is particularly important when helping students feel like they belong.  Teachers can be very important in facilitating this process.  I give you one example below.

Lesson Number Three:  There are people out there like you.

Math Team…the epitome of geek-dom.  In most high schools, a one-way ticket to the un-cool lunch table.  Kids who love math so much that they sacrifice their after-school and weekend freedom to go do more math problems.  Nerd central, right?!

But why?  Don’t we all wish we could be more like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or how about Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking?  Well, high schoolers are not always great at cause-effect relationships–the shocked expressions on many students’ faces at progress report time is a prime example of this.

It doesn’t have to be this way though.  Believe it or not, when I was in high school (a standard, non-charter, public high school) we took three full buses to math meets, our state-qualifying wrestling captain was a star Math Team member, bus rides were full of cheering and excited kids from a wide variety of social groups all carrying their pencils and graphing calculators, and I never once heard a disparaging remark made about joining the team.

How did this apparent alternate reality come about?  The teachers.  The math department offered extra credit for anyone who attended a math meet and additional points for performing well while there.  For many of the teachers, it was one of the few (or only) ways to earn extra credit.  The teachers made people want to go.  They made it okay to go.  By making Math Team appeal to many, many students, the teachers not only created a fun and exciting environment to do math in, but they also made it socially acceptable, not social suicide, for those students who would have joined anyway.  They allowed these students (and all the students on the team) a chance to find others like them in a safe environment.

While to some extent students need to find their own way, teachers can be integral in helping students find their place as demonstrated above.  Here are a couple further suggestions for doing this.

Five Suggestions for Helping Students Find Others Like Them

Offer as wide a variety of co-curriculars and extracurriculars as your school can support.  The more opportunities students have to explore their interests with others, the more they will feel like they have a place to fit in.

Make all co-curriculars and extracurriculars socially acceptable.  Encourage students from a wide variety of groups to join–you never know what hidden interests and talents a student is harboring.  Celebrate victories on the Forensics Team or in Model UN or the golf team just as much as you do the wrestling team or the football team or show choir.  Investing in a wide variety or groups, clubs, and teams not only helps your students find their niche, but it also encourages a more open, welcoming, and happy environment at your school.

Choose many different types of materials for classroom use.  Use a wide variety of book genres, research topics, examples, etc. in your classroom.  This helps normalize a wide variety of interests and activities and can help students find commonalities that they didn’t know they had.

Use real-world examples of people who were “different” or didn’t feel like they “fit in” who became very successful in life.  Biography units in Literature class and profiles of important and/or successful people in history or science are great ways to do this.

If nothing else, remind students whenever the opportunity arises and as often as you can that there are people like them out there, and they are not alone or totally weird.  This is particularly important with those students who are struggling.  Hearing this frequently helps this become the voice in these students’ heads instead of self-doubt and struggle.

Have an additional suggestion or thought?  Share in the comments section below!

Have a great day and…

Teach On!


Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific -


This Week’s Featured Product

Novel Review Form for Student Reviews
Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 8.15.22 AM

Looking for a way to get feedback from your students about a novel you just completed? This brief questionnaire is the way to do it! Gain insight into your students and your unit as well as improve your teaching in future years. This form is also is a great tool to help students feel a sense of ownership in your class. This can be used with any novel.  For more details or to purchase this product, click here!


This Week’s Journal Questions

For the teacher:  In your life who has encouraged you to be yourself and find your place?  How did he or she do this?  How do you help others do this?

For the student:  Who is your favorite person?  Why?


A Recipe from My Kitchen:

Blueberry Lemon Oat Muffins

A great muffin to grab on your way out the door!  Freeze these individually for mornings when you are running late.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw if frozen)
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 cup oil (vegetable, canola, or whatever your preference)
  • zest of 1 lemon (or more if you prefer more lemon-y muffins)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract


  1. Preheat your oven to 400°. Line muffin tins with paper liners.  I usually also spray the liners lightly with cooking spray.  It helps the liners come off your muffins more neatly.  Set aside.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, sugars, flax seed, soda, powder, and salt. Stir until well combined.  Toss blueberries with this mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, yogurt, oil, zest, and extracts.
  4. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Put batter into lined muffin tins. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean.
  6. Cool for five minutes in the pans and then remove muffins to wire racks. Enjoy warm or after they have cooled.
  7. Makes approximately 2.5 dozen muffins.

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s