Ready for Middle School
By: Todd Grina, Middle School Principal
Even though this is going to be a short summer it is never too early to start planning for the next school year. Entering and attending the middle school can be exciting yet a stressful time for both parents and students. These feelings are especially intensified if this is your first time as a middle school parent. In my twenty plus years of working in a middle school, I often find that the parent is probably more anxious than the student. This is due to the many misconceptions about the middle school years that you hear about or see portrayed in the media. Parents hear stories of students getting lost while transitioning from one class to the next, or having no one to sit with at lunch, and my favorite, their child getting stuffed in a locker. (The only time I have seen a student in a locker was when he put himself in it.) All of these anxieties are real and it is our job to help you through them. What follows are some tips posted as a blog in the Salisbury Post that will hopefully easy both parent and child anxieties about the middle school.
First and foremost stay connected with the school. For some reason parents tend to pull away from school involvement when their children reach the middle school years. Your children will tell you that they don’t want you to come near school. Again in my experience, they truly want you involved and once you are they think it is cool. More importantly to your child, their friends think it is cool that you are involved.
Keep reading. There is much research that clearly demonstrates the importance of daily reading. There is a huge change that takes place during the middle years in regard to reading. Students transition from learning to read to reading to learn. It is important to that your child reads something for at least thirty minutes a day. Even during the summer. In fact the summertime is a good time to practice this by having your child research and help plan family summer activities or family trips.
Learning time management strategies is critical to student success during the middle years. Typically, middle school students become very involved in after school activities. Setting aside time for studying is crucial. Even if they don’t have any specific homework they can spend time reading and reviewing nightly. Students learn and remember more when they consistently review information.
Helping to foster a growth mindset is critical to your child’s success in school, in their future careers and in life. A growth mindset simply means believing that you can get better and better with practice and hard work. Children should be praised for their hard work, effort, perseverance and “grit”. Not necessarily praised for the outcome of their effort.
Stay in your child’s “business”. As students go through the middle years they are trying to find where they fit in. They may find themselves associating with new friends. We encourage you to stay in tune with their friends. Middle school aged children are very impressionable which makes this an especially crucial time to stay in touch with what they are doing and who they are hanging out with during their unstructured time.
As we enter into our Bring Your Own Device initiative next year with our sixth graders it is important for you as parents to know what your child does online. They have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Unfortunately it is not always appropriate information. They often don’t realize the digital footprint that they leave behind. Once it is posted it is nearly impossible to delete it. Common Sense Media has a great website that contains good information about keeping your children safe while online.
Ask about school every day. Talking about and asking questions about their day at school shows your child that you are interested and concerned about their education. Often the answer to your questions will be the preverbal answer of “nothing” when you ask what they did in school. If you ask questions such as, what is one thing that made you think today, or what didn’t you understand today, your child will reflect and give you more than a one word response. It is hard to get this information but keep asking.
The middle years are the years to explore. Encourage your child to get involved in something at school. A child tends to do better in school when they are involved in activities outside of the school day.
It really does take a village to raise a child. Schools cannot do it alone, families cannot do it alone and communities cannot do it alone. If we truly value an exceptional education for our students we must work together as a team. Despite the sometimes negative public perception of middle school aged students, they are amazing people. Remember to stop and savor the moment every now and then. You are encouraged to embrace this time and enjoy the development of your child as it goes by all to fast.