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In a reversal of Big, the Tom Hanks classic from the 80s, your adult self is suddenly locked in the body of a 12-year-old kid. How do you survive your first day back in school?

My grandson is 12 and starting seventh grade in a junior high school. He seems too young to me, definitely still a child. Even his 17 year-old sister, a senior, seems young, too. I can only relate to them as children, and see how far they’ve come and how very far they have yet to grow.

I’ve taught 6-8 grade in a middle for years, and enjoyed the kids very much. It’s a great age, if you can appreciate what they’re going through. Some days they are children, and the next day, teenagers — back and forth — trying on different personalities and attitudes, just like different styles of clothes. A lot of what they say, do, and wear, is to get a reaction from others to see what works and what doesn’t. They’re trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in their society and the wider world. As a teacher it feels good to be able to give them gentle nudges in the right direction. Having a good sense of humor helps a lot! Keeping them “in line” can be difficult, but they can be so amusing that sometimes you just want to laugh with them when you need to keep a straight face.

I don’t know how someone with an adult mind could function in as a 12 year-old in a middle school. Your common sense and experience — your maturity — would make it nearly impossible to co-exist with children that age. I suppose the best thing to do would be to lay low, act dumb, and follow the kids’ lead to try and get a fix on how they’re thinking. I don’t know how long you could hold your tongue and not act like a geek, or a know-it-all. You’d be constantly fighting your grown-up self to act in ways that make no sense, seem silly, or you know are inappropriate.

Maybe a 20 year-old could pull it off, because his or her thinking is still flexible enough to blend in better. The older one is, especially if you’ve had children, would make it very difficult and uncomfortable to think or behave on the level that 12 year-olds do.

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