Contributor Bios

Below are our contributors' recollections of their own (sometimes challenging) middle school experiences, as well as their middle school and current photos.

Claudia Vincent

Photos of Claudia Vincent

I was never particularly athletic. Each year, our school organized a track-and-field competition, where all students could compete in their age and gender group. In 8th grade, I was the tallest girl in my class, all skinny arms and legs, and totally uncoordinated. I was so self-conscious about my lack of coordination, that my stomach was all tied into knots before the competition. Everyone would look at me and see me fail. Eighth grade girls needed to run 100 meters, do the long jump and the high jump. Right out of the starting blocks for the 100-meter run, I stumbled and barely stayed upright. I came in a distant last. My long jump wasn't long at all. At the high jump, I panicked at the last second and dove under the bar instead of over it. I felt awful. The teachers scoring the events looked at me with pity in their eyes. My classmates either laughed or turned away from me to celebrate their own successes and high-five each other. After the last event, I ran into the locker room to change and went home without talking to anyone.

I still don't do team sports, but I am now coordinated enough to run, and most of the time I don't fall down.

Erik Girvan

Photos of Erik Girvan

Growing up, I used to hate wearing jeans: Too stiff? Didn't fit right? I don't know exactly really. At the time, track and athletic pants were not common everyday wear, so I usually wore simple cotton slacks to school. Unfortunately, I was also growing a lot. One day, near as I can tell, when I reached down to pick up some books I has set on the floor, the back seam of one of my favorite pair of pants split open. I didn't notice and went to class. Thankfully, a friend mentioned it to me not too long after and I tied a sweatshirt around my waist for the rest of the day.

John Inglish

Photo of Jhon Inglish

When I was young, my Mom was sick and I decided to take the initiative and make her some oatmeal for breakfast. (It was my first time). I poured a bunch of oatmeal into a tea kettle, added some water, and set it to boil. Needless to say, it didn't turn out the way I envisioned, but mom was a good sport in spooning the oatmeal out of the tea kettle, never complaining once. My culinary skills have improved moderately since then.

Heather McClure

Photos of Heather McClure

I grew up in Los Angeles which, true to its reputation, is a very sunny place. As a white girl with very pale skin, I had two skin tones-white and pale in the winter and bright red in the summer. No matter how much sunscreen I put on in the summers, I often wound up with sunburns.

The worst was one time when I put on a thick layer of sunscreen on my face and, over the day, managed to wipe off the sunscreen under my nose. I wound up having a dark red burn in the shape of Yosemite Sam's moustache.

I was a member of student leadership and had a few presentations to classes about projects we were hoping to get students to support. Halfway through my presentation, the giggles would start, and by the time I left the classroom, my entire face was the color of my sunburn.

Rita Svanks

Photo of Rita Svanks

As a 6th grader I was on our school's traffic patrol. We had long poles with flags at the end allowing us to stop traffic so students could safely cross the street. We wore badges, arrived early, and started class later than other students. What a treat!

My friend and I were leaving our street corner after the bell rang and decided to engage in an energetic playful battle of the poles. Why did a visiting principal drive by at that exact moment? No idea, but he certainly felt it was his duty to alert our principal about our disrespectful behavior. I was pulled out of class, sent to the principal's office and you can imagine the rest. I have no memory of the lecture, but I do remember my friend (hurray for friends!) and my teacher, who reassured me and welcomed me back into the classroom. Whatever embarrassment I felt about going to the principal's office was eased by his understanding.

Jeff Gau

Photos of Jeff Gau

I was born in North Carolina, lived in Michigan, New York, and the suburbs of Chicago until the age 10. Then I moved to rural Wisconsin to a very small town called Elkhart Lake. I was one of only 1,054 residents. It was quite an adjustment moving from larger cities, but I quickly grew to love rural life. When I wasn't in school (my class had less than 50 students) I was outside. I would wake up, go out the door, and only come back for lunch and dinner. Growing up rural you often had to make your own fun. I would build tree forts, hike in the woods and nearby fields, and of course swim in the lake. If I wanted to go to town I would either walk or ride my bike the mile or so to get there. There wasn't much to do in town, but I would find a friend and we would play baseball, basketball or just ride our bikes around the neighborhood. Everyone knew each other so it was seldom you saw a stranger in town. And if you ever needed help, with anything, there was always a friendly face to lend you a hand. I get to visit Elkhart Lake every couple of years and for the most part very little has changed. In fact, there are fewer people living there now than when I left to go to college in 1988. I feel very fortunate to have the experience of growing up in rural Wisconsin.

Darren Reiley

Photos of Darren Reiley

I started my teen years in the late 80's, an unfortunate time for fashion all around, and my lack of fashion sense didn't help. Once when I was in 6th grade, I decided to change my hair style to try to match some teen star of the day—lots of mousse and aquanet and spikes and waves. It really didn't match my personality or my hairline or my head, and the girls in my class who kept looking at me and giggling seemed to agree. That may have been the beginning of my lifelong love of hats.