ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Being in middle school is tough. Living through a pandemic is tough. That’s why one former middle school teacher is creating “Words of Wisdom” for middle schoolers, and adults alike.
Ted Nixon worked in radio for 25 years, including owning WCMF for three years. But after his time in radio was over, he “reinvented” himself, and became a middle school French teacher.
In his 13 years working at Churchville-Chili, he began recording some simple messages.
“In the beginning of my fifth year, the principal asked if I would read some preprepared ‘words of wisdom,'” he said. “Three months into that project, we had a kid die of meningitis, totally out of the blue.”
The principal decided the school needed something more than pre-packaged platitudes. He asked Nixon to write his own, to help students, parents, and faculty.
For that first reading, he drew from a book called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” by Rabbi Kushner. That grew into a twice-weekly project in which Nixon would completely write his own “Words of Wisdom.”
All of them were one and a half to two minute messages, covering a range of topics and values that are relevant to middle schoolers.
“Middle schoolers… It’s a tough road,” he said. “They’re wedged between. They’re not kids anymore, but they’re not adults or high schoolers. They don’t get much attention from the outside world.”
“They’re way smarter than they get credit for,” he said. “I understood that they could take in messages that challenged them. I didn’t have to dumb them down.”
The topics range from self-esteem, to good decision-making, friendship, handling bullying.
Now that the coronavirus pandemic has hit, middle schoolers — and adults — face not only these challenges, but a whole slew of new ones.
He launched his website, which is not only full of all of the messages he released as a teacher on all of those Mondays and Fridays, but has started a new series, discussing how middle schoolers can deal with the challenges of being at home during the shutdown.
But they can also help adults, too.
“The tone that I take is respectful, optimistic, and it talks about life skills and values,” he said. “They’re universal values that make our lives a lot happier if we practice them.”
So far he has written six.
“This is tough,” he said. “Middle schoolers are miraculously expected to know how live life… I remember how lost I was, and I was looking for a place to hide… They need all the help they can get.”
He shared this advice with us:
“Some people look at a glass, and say it’s half full. The optimist does that. The pessimist says it’s half empty, and the person who is really struggling can’t find the glass at all.”
“What does a glass half full look like during COVID-19? It came down to four things: hope, faith, trust, and love.”
“When people are looking at hope, I want people to think that is going to end sometime, and when it does, we’re going to be happy to have big hugs from everybody.”
“Faith is an individual thing. Some people believe in religion, a higher power, or the goodness of humankind.”
“Trust is a tough one, because people have had their trust betrayed over the years. But it’s really important for being to trust, even if that means for people to be trustworthy themselves.”
“Love — not just love like you love your mother — but the love that binds us all together, is what is going to get us through.”
“At the end I tell them to pour a big half-full glass, and drink a whole bunch of it.”
Nixon is also seeking out guests to contribute their own Words of Wisdom to people who might need it.