What seventh graders need is a uniform and a briefcase.

I've been teaching junior high for a few years now, and this year I'm teaching seventh-grade English exclusively. Now that the trauma of first semester is over for my kids and their parents, I want to get a couple of things off my chest.Suggestion No. 1: How about school uniforms for seventh- and eighth-graders?

On the academic side, our youngsters would have one less big (to them) issue to contend with in their introduction to secondary school.

A poor, scared, discombobulated seventh grader already has to deal with not one but seven teachers, many of whom demand high-school-level academic performance.

There are notebooks to be bought and organized; class notes to be taken; math, English and social studies facts and figures to be memorized, and, worst of all, mid-term, quarter and semester reports to be taken home, reviewed, and signed by parents.

For another thing, I and my younger brothers and sisters in poverty are sick and tired of the fashion comparisons between the well off and the poor.

Many kids wear the latest fashion fads to school, oblivious of the fact that many other people cannot afford even the least of them.

Ever think about that overweight, seventh-grade boy who lives in an overnight hotel? Or even on the street?

Such a 12-year-old is sometimes so painfully aware of the fashion contrast that he invents excuses to ditch school - four out of five days.

It's not uncommon in some districts for dedicated teachers to take poor kids out shopping in a desperate effort to level the fashion field.

School uniforms might take some of that pressure off kids who already have too much pressure, even in 7th grade.

Suggestion No. 2: Ban lockers in junior high. For the sake of adult sanity.

"I left it in my locker." I swear, if I hear that whining sentence again, I'll scream.

Ban lockers.

We ask adults not to drink and drive because alcohol and driving are a fatal combination. For seventh graders, lockers and homework are just as deadly.

To give a 12-year-old a locker - with a combination, yet! Something else to memorize or, more likely, forget - and you can forget homework.

That, along with the kid's life's work, will be buried in the depths of that unyielding locker.

I say, make seventh-graders go to school just like their parents go to work. With a briefcase.