Essay Middle School Life
Maybe Eleanor would have loved to join the book club? I think about the many, many times that Eleanor has had similar things happen to her. It must shut down her self-esteem and hope, and crash her dreams of what she might want to do later in life—crashing her hope of maybe succeeding to be a doctor or lawyer or teacher or cook or whatever she wants to be…crashing the opportunity to fly her own way and complete what she would like to complete in her life.
By Harriet, age 11
My name is Harriet and this year I am going into middle school in a new town. For most of my school life in my old town, I was paying close attention to my classmate, Eleanor. She is labeled with a disability and, to me, the way that most people treat her is not right. I have noticed the teachers, other kids, her aides, the principal, and even the teacher who is supposed to be in charge of inclusive education treat her like she is different from the rest of the students our age. It’s hard for me to understand why.
The aides act almost as if they are terrified of her and because they act this way, most of the other kids do, too. A lot of the students who are the same age as Eleanor act as though they are older than she is and that she still wants books like Frog and Toad read to her, as if she is a child. I honestly don’t think she is still in that stage of life. In so many ways, I see her act just as any other student would act. She says, “No MATH!” like we all say (at least in our minds), and yet, when she does a math problem that is “well done,” she is given a piece of a chocolate chip cookie. When my math is “well done,” I get a grade, not a piece of a cookie. She is treated and represented and misinterpreted as though she can’t learn like any other 5th grader. I think she can, but she is never given the chance.
Eleanor’s aide is by her side every second, including recess and lunch. She is like a box around her. This box makes it seem as though Eleanor can’t engage in the world and gives the message to all the kids in her class to leave her alone because she is different. Everyone is different.
This box is a big barrier to her having real friends and her being a real friend. It is a barrier to her engaging with her classmates. It is a barrier to having someone to count on if she’s having a hard day. I can’t imagine what it must feel like not to have friends to count on if I am having a bad day. Wherever you are in the world, everyone should feel comfort and belonging knowing that you always have people to hold on to you as you fly your way and they fly theirs. Eleanor isn’t given the opportunity to know that she belongs and to feel the freedom to fly.
I remember a day when a notice was delivered to all of our mailboxes inviting us to join a book club. The notice was put in Eleanor’s mailbox and when the reading teacher was checking to make sure that everyone received one, she took the notice out of Eleanor’s box. The reading teacher wasn’t going to give the notice to another kid; she just threw it away and walked out the door. As a child, I see this situation as very messed up. Eleanor isn’t even counted enough as a person/student in my class to be included in the “everyone” category. Maybe Eleanor would have loved to join the book club? I think about the many, many times that Eleanor has had similar things happen to her. It must shut down her self-esteem and hope, and crash her dreams of what she might want to do later in life—crashing her hope of maybe succeeding to be a doctor or lawyer or teacher or cook or whatever she wants to be…crashing the opportunity to fly her own way and complete what she would like to complete in her life.
This is just one story of one girl in the world who is in my school, but I know that stuff like this is happening everywhere. From my perspective, inclusion is not just that everyone is in the classroom and treated the same. Inclusion is everyone working together doing the same things; everyone is included in every activity at all times. No one person is treated special, such as being pulled out to bake cookies or bribed with a cookie to do the problem right. If there has to be an aide to help a student, he wouldn’t be there for any one person; the aide would help everyone. If any kid was having a hard time, the aide would check-in.
My dream is to work on the challenge of helping kids belong and help change the thinking about how all kids are included in our schools. I tried to talk to my school principal, but I am not sure she really listened. It is hard sometimes as a kid to know how to change things like this, but I know we can do it. To anyone reading this who has this same dream: hopefully one day we will all see the change that we are working together to make happen.
Editor’s note: This is a reprint of an article on Swifttalk (SwiftSchools) – which is a site dedicated to effective inclusion. I was so impressed with Harriet’s essay I asked her if I could share it with The Art of Autism. Harriet is an eleven year old girl who is beginning middle school. She loves to read. Three of her favorite books are: Sand Dollar Summer, Counting by Seven’s, and Walk Two Moons. She has a big family and a dog named Daisy. Harriet loves nordic skiing, cooking with her sisters, and she hopes to be a lawyer someday so that she can help difficult situations be more fair.
Prompt: War can have an adverse affect on the lives of people - the young and the old. Write an essay that argues how war adversely impacts the lives of children.
Middle School Argumentative Essay Example
Living during a war is difficult for anyone, but especially for children. Growing up during times of war can greatly affect how kids live their lives. During the Holocaust, many children's lives were altered by the war around them. The book Number the Stars by Lois Lowry discusses how the Holocaust changed the life of the main character, Annemarie, and her friends and family. Other nonfiction books, like The Diary of Anne Frank, also say that war changes children's lives.
Number the Stars is about a girl who comes of age in Denmark during the second World War. Annemarie, has a best friend named Ellen, who is Jewish. Because the Nazis are making many Jewish people leave Denmark or taking them to prison or concentration camps, Annemarie's family disguises her friend by saying she is one of their daughters. Annemarie's family ends up having to leave as well to get away from the war. Another nonfiction book, called The Diary of Anne Frank tells the true story of a girl who had to hide with her family in an attic to escape the Nazis. This book is the real diary of Anne, who lived during World War II. It tells all about what happened to her while her family was hiding during the war. Both books have many examples of how war changed children's lives.
All of the children in Number the Stars face many life changes because of the war. For example, early in the story, Annemarie's sister, Kirsti, is upset because the war means that there are no more sweets or other delicious treats to eat because the soldiers won't let them purchase sugar or butter or other necessary food items. That shows that the children's lives are affected because they can't eat the kinds of food that they normally eat. The children are more angry about this than the adults because they want to eat sweet foods. Anne Frank's diary also talks about how they did not have enough to eat because the Nazis did not let people have enough food. This made Anne and her family have to share food and be very hungry because they almost did not have enough food to survive. Though some may make the argument that food does not greatly affect someone's life, every character in both books talks about the effect of food rations on their daily lives.
Another example of how life changed for the children during the war is that many children had to move or live with different people. In Number the Stars, Ellen's parents have to leave her with Annemarie's family. In the story, the Nazis were trying to round up all the Jewish people, so Ellen's parents have to hide out and leave the city. They leave very fast, so Ellen has to stay with Annemarie's parents and act like she is one of their daughters. Ellen's life was extremely different because her parents left her behind and she had to live with a different family for a while. Annemarie's family also ends up having to move. Some people may argue that only Jewish children were affected by World War II. However, because Annemarie's family also had to move, this shows that every child's life is affected by the war, not just the Jewish families. In her diary, Anne Frank's family had to abandon their house, as well. They went to hide in the attic to escape the Nazis. Anne also had to leave where she grew up, which changed her life. Similarly, the family that hid Anne almost experienced many changes, even though they were Christians. As you can see, war caused many children to have to change the ways that they lived.
A final example of how life changes for children during war is that all of the children in these books faced many dangers. In The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne and her family have to hide away in an attic to stop the Nazis from discovering them. They cannot talk loudly or go downstairs, in case someone hears them and betrays them to the Nazis. This is not a normal kind of danger and doesn't happen to kids unless something really bad, like a war, is happening. In Number the Stars all of the children talk to and see soldiers every day, and have to be careful what they say to the soldiers, or they could get in serious trouble. Having soldiers on the streets is another example of the dangers that children may face during wars. Both books also tell about bombs going off that could destroy houses and kill people. This shows that all people, even children, are affected by war because bombs and other weapons affect everyone.
Often times, people may say that war does not actually change children's lives, especially if they are not living near the war, or if their family is not directly affected by it. After all, many children growing up today live in times of war. However, war changes all children, whether or not they realize it at the time. Even children growing up today are aware of violence in ways that might not have been if they hadn't grown up seeing images of war on television. For the children growing up during the Holocaust, war was everywhere and it changed their lives.
Living during a war can really affect how kids live. Both books, Number the Stars and the Diary of Anne Frank, show that living during war changes children's lives. For example, sometimes, they do not have enough food to eat during war. Or, they may have to move to live in a new place or with different people. Children are also in more danger during war than they normally would be. All of these examples show that war affects children's lives in many ways.