(Episode 2 Drop) Motion Pictures Meets Reality: “Eighth Grade” Takes Us Back to the most Visceral Truths of Coming-of-Age

Raise your hand if you want to go back to middle school.  Anyone? Anyone? (Why is it so quiet in here all of a sudden?) If the thought of re-inhabiting your 13 year old skin makes you cringe, you should be warned, Bo Burnham’s portrayal of Kayla’s culminating middle school year in Eighth Grade might very well transport you right back.  But for those of us that work with youth in this age range, 8th Grade might be the most impactful PD experience out there.  Why? By putting us smack dab in the center of the young protagonist’s hopes, insecurities, successes, and failures, the movie will do more than just elicit sighs of recognition– it may very well help you see all of your students in an entirely new light. Here to talk about the movie and their wonderful, awkward 8th grade selves are Toby Lowe (5th grade math), Hannah Williams-Inman (7th-8th grade Spanish), and Hollie Marjanovic (US Learning Facilitator).  

3:55-5:10: How Hannah’s 8th grade year represented a huge identity shift from shy to confident, much like Kayla, the protagonist in the movie.  

5:15-7:55:  How Hollie’s 8th grade grade year was fraught with all of the normal awkward things in 8th grade, but also compounded by transferring to a new school and a school-wide tragedy; and the role that safe and kind adults played.  

7:59-10:11: Why 8th grade was Toby’s least favorite year, and that strong sense waiting for life to start, trying to find your thing when you don’t yet know quite who you are. 

10:15-11:02: Why it can feel like a huge relief for us as faculty to remember how marginal teachers can be in the lives of students, at best “blundering idiots.” 

13:27-15:55: How Kayla’s middle school experiences contrast with the reality of our 5th-8th graders at St. Andrew’s; also Hannah drops some wisdom: “All 8th graders want to belong and feel like they don’t.  100% want to be part of something and don’t feel they are part of something yet.”  

15:57- 17:55: We zoom a bit more into Kayla, her need to make help videos, and why 8th grade is, as Toby puts it, “such a well observed movie.” 

17:56- 19:30: Toby recalls the “ visiting your friend’s huge mansion effect” from his own coming-of-age, and Hannah points out that adolescence is a project of comparison: “Should my life look like I’m having fun in this pool party with friends?” 

19:36- 21:48:  We gush about perhaps our favorite 8th grade character in the movie, the oh-so-lovable Gabe.

22:55-26:32: The good, bad, and ugly of when Kayla gets a glimpse into high school life, and does this have implications for our 5th-12th grade north campus? 

26:38-34:35: We talk the role that technology plays in the movie, our own relationships with devices, researched links to anxiety, and our cell phone policies at school.  

34:36-35:30: Reasons we think Kayla’s dad should win best dad ever. 

35:31-37:20:  The climactic end of the movie, time capsules, and Kayla seeing the light after a very fraught year of growing up. 

37:42-41:11:Toby asks us to muster up our past 8th grade girl perspective: “Is there really all that staring and boy anxiety?!” 

41:16-42:20: Why we just want to find every awkward kid and hug them and make them feel better.  Also, we are ALL still Kayla, even those of us in our forties.  

44:28-end: Hannah ends the episode with more words of insight: “It feels impossible that someone could look at you with all your mess, frizzy hair, and think that you are easy to love. It seems impossible! But we’ve all been there! And they are so easy to love.” 

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