Baseline Junior High. This is the place where I
Broke all of the rules, right as I was breaking myself.
Baseline Junior High, my old middle school
Was torn down not long ago, it’s true
And it’s given me a reason to go back through
My memories to process what happened there.
Baseline Junior High. Grades 7-9.
A time when I grew
In both body and mind.
And though I grew
I wish I knew then
What I know now.
Baseline Junior High. Grades 7-9.
That’s the place where it all happened.
That big red brick building watched me transition
Through my tough teen years into adulthood.
What a rough transition it turned out to be.
That process of becoming “me.”
As if puberty wasn’t enough strife,
I had the reality of a rotten home life.
Of a hard working single mom who never yelped
About my deadbeat dad who, when I was two,
Rode his Harley off into the sunset.
Seriously man: stay away!
But Dear Old Dad came back.
Dad’s return spun me like a top
Making me stop and question who I was
Who had made me this way?
Who gave me my short temper
Who gave me the inability to pay attention?
Longer than five minutes at a time
My frustration bubbled over
And manifested in what my teachers called
“A behavior problem” that got me hauled
Fast into the Principal’s office.
Trouble became a mask I hid behind
They stopped adding me to the daily Detention dossier.
They knew I’d just show up anyway.
Detention became my favorite “class.”
It became my safe place.
It was the rule breakers’ hang out space.
It was heavenly! It’s where I could be me.
It was where I could be asked
To take off the mask.
You see, what I didn’t know at the time
Was that my friends and I
Had something in common.
We had ADHD and other problems.
Paying attention in class was almost impossible.
We were expected to be like everyone else.
We weren’t like everyone else though.
We couldn’t be like everyone else.
So off to detention we’d go.
And it’s really NOT because
We were bad kids but because
We were misunderstood.
In 1990 we didn’t talk about ADHD.
We just blamed bad behavior on bad attitudes.
On broken homes.
On bad parenting.
Everything was a bone of contention,
And the solutions were not working.
Only a few of us managed to make it out.
Managed to escape a system whose structure
Labeled us different.
Labeled us outcasts.
Labeled us misfits.
Most of us dropped out of school,
Most of us ended up in jail.
Metal bars, I learned the hard way
Aren’t meant for 14 year olds.
School is meant for teens, but if I wanted to stay,
It had to be a game for me to play
Where everyone but me
Made the rules.
Most players in this game didn’t need
To know the rules.
The rules were made for the normal kids
To know what the rule breakers were doing.
So they could avoid being like us.
Like an advertisement of what not to be.
I had to learn on my own how to cope.
For my ADHD.
For my short attention span.
For my short temper.
For my inability to keep track of schedules
For the reason I always lose stuff!
And this will probably raise an eyebrow:
I teach middle school myself now!
And Baseline Junior High
Is with me every day when I
Walk into my own classroom.
I don’t just see my students.
I see myself.
I don’t just see rebellious rowdy teenagers.
I see normal kids that are each a little bit different.
I see kids that can focus
And I see the ones that can’t.
I hear the loud ones and I watch
As others shrink from the noise and cover their ears.
And every day I hear the quiet ones,
The shy ones who are too terrified to speak
And when they do it’s just a squeak.
It’s just a whisper.
And it’s okay!
All y'all are okay.
I want to celebrate that we
All share the same sky.
I wish I had a place to value me
When I was in middle school.
Instead, I got Baseline Junior High.
They may have torn Baseline down
But it’s eternal for me.