Five years ago, I was an eighth grader at Goldenview Middle School. I played hockey, thought I had a chance at a college hockey career, and even though I’m relatively smart, I thought that being smart (read—a nerd) wasn't cool, so I slacked in school. I hovered at the point where my parents wouldn't get mad at me and my friends wouldn't dislike me too much for getting good grades (or so I thought).
I was interested in girls, and had been for a few years, but middle school "dating" isn't a "dinner and a movie" affair. It's more a social status, with the couple just spending every possible moment at school with one another and talking to each other with whatever social tool they could (i.e. Facebook, Myspace, texting, or the relic—talking on the phone). But in middle school, few relationships get past that point. It's a bridge between the elementary school crushes and the full-on dating in high school and the rest of life.
That's what middle school is supposed to be: a place to prepare you for high school, and the time after that. It's in the classes, with periods instead of just one teacher the whole day. It’s in the kids, who are transitioning from being kids to being those awkward adolescents. And it’s in the principal's office, where both the punishments and the crimes are getting more severe.
For kids, the transition is mental. They start thinking about what career field they'll go into. It's more serious than before, when everybody wanted to be a fireman, an astronaut, or an athlete. But still nobody really puts much thought into it because they won’t have to choose for five years, or in middle school terms, way too far away. Nevertheless, they have a more refined goal in life than what they had a few years before.
The boys and girls also start to differ in their behavior. With relationships, the girls usually are the ones to start it, by telling someone who told someone who told you that she liked you. The boys, from my experience, mostly just go along with the flow, because they don't know who else to like. Also, the boys get in much more trouble, like the stereotypical boy things of throwing paper airplanes, talking while the teacher is talking, etc. But that is my opinion, not the absolute truth. I'm sure there were both girl and boy troublemakers, I just saw that more of the boys got in trouble than the girls.
I learned a lot in middle school, and that's outside the classroom. It's much more an education of society and social norms than of proofs and biology. I learned that there are some things you will never agree with your parents about, there are some things that aren't worth arguing with your parents about, and that time makes most things better.
But I didn't learn the most important thing until much later: you only have one chance to do all of this, and if you just wish the days would roll by, they will. Then five years later, you'll wake up and realize you're in the real world now.