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1. Essential Listening: “Middle School” as featured on THIS AMERICAN LIFE

It’s been a busy month, with many school visits and almost no real writing. On Sunday, tomorrow, I’m heading to South Carolina, a trip that begins with three presentations in a middle school. So I thought I’d share my highest recommendation with you.

Listen to This American Life: Middle School. Trust me, it’s terrific. Smart, insightful, poignant, funny, heartbreaking. Really, I mean it. This is brilliant and you have must, must, must give it a listen.

Seventh-graders at a costume dance, dressed

as characters from The Outsiders.

To listen to the show, you have a couple of options. You can go here, for free, to hear the show in its entirety. Or you can catch up on all the old episodes of “This American Life” on iTunes for only 99 cents each.┬áThe “Middle School” segment originally aired in late October. Here’s some background info, as provided by WBEZ:


Middle School

This week, at the suggestion of a 14-year-old listener, we bring you stories from the awkward, confusing, hormonally charged world of middle school. Including a teacher who transforms peer pressure into a force for good, and reports from the frontlines of the middle school dance.


Host Ira Glass interviews a 14-year old named Annie, who emailed us asking if we would do a show about middle school. She explains why exactly the middle school years can be so daunting. (4 1/2 minutes)

Act One: Life in the Middle Ages.

In an effort to understand the physical and emotional changes middle school kids experience, Ira speaks with reporter Linda Perlstein, who wrote a book called Not Much Just Chillin’ about a year she spent following five middle schoolers. Then we hear from producer Alex Blumberg, who was a middle school teacher in Chicago for four years before getting into radio. Alex’s takeaway? We shouldn’t even try teaching kids at this age. Marion Strok, principal of a successful Chicago s

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