Content warning: If you have never taught middle school, this post may shock you or offend delicate sensibilities.

This is my 26th year in education, my 6th in high school. That said, I still find myself unable to look at a Scholastic flier bundle without a little shudder and flashback to the many, many years I spent teaching middle school.

Middle school is an interesting place often awash in bad decisions, hormone tsunamis, and Axe body spray.

Those three things regularly contributed to what my friends joked must have been a “stimulating” class environment.

Middle school boys sometimes have… issues. Yes, they have “you need deodorant” issues. Yes, they occasionally need to be introduced to toothpaste. Yes, they sometimes need a better filter. But, to be discreet… there are some other issues that tend to *ahem* arise.

The last two years I spent marinating in the hormone stew that was my work environment, there were a few young lads who didn’t have very effective strategies for dealing with those issues when they arose, and instead they had a tendency to address the situation with a hands-on approach.

During class.

A lot.

Sometimes enthusiastically.

Finally, after multiple counselor conversations and other interventions, my neighbor teacher and I developed a system to circumvent the problem, interrupting these moments of independent study, so to speak. We maintained a pile of outdated book sales flier bundles, and when we noticed attention seemed to be diligently concentrated on the area south of the desktop rather than north of it, we sent deliveries to one another. It was clearly understood that application of hand sanitizer and recycling said fliers was the best protocol when these deliveries occurred. (Better yet- “Thank-you, dear. Please put it on the pile over there.”)

We sent quite a few book advertisement bundles back and forth that year. Scholastic could have made a ton of money had we actually distributed them! My apologies to them for the lost sales, but they have my appreciation for helping solve a problem nowhere to be found in Harry Wong’s manual for the First Days of School.

I went to my mailbox today and found a set of book fliers randomly sitting there, waiting for someone’s attention. It wasn’t addressed to me or to anyone who would use it, so I dropped it directly into the recycling bin with an attitude of gratitude.

Some things, you just don’t miss.