Sixth graders call me Ms Smillie

The last time I was in middle school, if I recall correctly, I was miserable. Notes were being passed, rumors being spread, cliques formed, allegiances sworn and self-esteems being generally ruined. Today was a little different. Okay, a lot different. In cahoots with 826 Michigan, I arranged for some of us fellowship folks to help teach sixth graders about feature articles. And, I have to tell you, it was a blast.

It's part of a project the sixth graders undertake each year at Slauson Middle School - to interview an immigrant to the US and write a feature article about them. Jamie joined me for the morning session and we tag-teamed our way through an explanation of the basics of feature writing to the first group, comprising two separate classes brought together for the grand event.

In the afternoon, Chris and I did the same routine for a single class and then another double group. It's pretty amazing to catch these kids at this age - when they're figuring out what to read, where to get their information - and talk to them about journalism and news. They're still open to new ideas, still impressed by Real Live Journalists in front of them. It feels good to visit a world where you actually feel like you know something still and that maybe there is hope for the future of news and journalism. Where there's still a possibility of making a difference in some, small way.

I'll tell you this much - the sixth graders we saw today (although they grew increasingly sluggish as the day rolled on) show more enthusiasm for learning than most of the college kids I've encountered this year.

I've talked before about wanting to teach, eventually, and I've always thought I'd want to teach writing at the college level. I still think that's probably where I'd get the most enjoyment and flexibility -- but I could see the lure of teaching kids at this age, too.

I think the best part of my day came just after the first session Chris and I did together. He was looking at me afterwards, kind of wide-eyed, and I laughed and asked why he was staring. "I'm just amazed," he said. "You're really good at this."

And the thing is, I kind of am.

Not bragging. Just saying.