Humans are wired for connection. Many times this connection comes from our families, but often our friends fill this need too.
I have many groups of friends from teaching friends to online friends to family friends to longtime high school friends. They have all shaped who I am during the different stages of my life. I can't imagine my life without any of them.
If you have been a long-time reader of my blog, you know about my high school friends - the EJDs, also known as The Eight Jelly Donuts. Most of us have been friends for over 40 years even as we have lived from all four corners of the country and from one coast to the other.
Together, we have been through marriage and divorce, birth and infertility, eating disorders and addiction, cancer scares and death of parents, career changes and life changes, grandkids and menopause. And through it all, we have remained friends.
We have zoomed several times during this isolation period. Angie, my friend-turned-sister-in-law has been "playing" a new kind of Scrabble game. She chooses a theme for a board and builds words to fit that theme while challenging herself to use all of the letters. This is her EJD board.
This board reminds me of my students. I worry about them. Middle school is a time for change not only physically, mentally, and emotionally, but also socially. This is the time when friend groups change. Elementary friend groups evolve into middle school groups, which can set the course for many years ahead.
I have had students tell me the worst part of this pandemic is not being able to be with their friends. I have parents who are allowing kids to see each other while other parents are not. In the middle of this, kids are trying to figure out where they belong. Some feel their friends are changing and some are moving on without them. Some are trying to hang on to the friends they have while trying to understand who their true friends are.
Middle school life is messy even without a pandemic.
They are searching for connection. They need connection.
I reassure them by telling them my own friend stories while they are rewriting theirs. Life revision is hard. They are beginning to place the tiles on their own Scrabble boards. In the years to come, I want them to be able to use all of the letters and to connect all of their words in their own beautiful stories.
And I pray that they become blessed with their own EJDs.