It used to be called Junior High School. Sometimes, intermediate school. Most likely, your child will begin in sixth grade. Having taught middle school for twelve years, and being in charge of our school’s articulation process with our “feeder” elementary schools, I’ve come up with five tips that may be of some use to prospective middle school parents.
1. Excite your child with the idea he or she will have more than one teacher! He or she may have five or six. This can be “spun” to be a very exciting prospect. “Just think,” you might say, “if you don’t like your teacher, you will only be there for an hour out of the day.” Of course, we hope every teacher is likable, but the idea of switching classes should be presented as fun and mysterious (at first).
2. More Freedom. Yes, middle schools are known for discipline and rules (and for kids that need them), and structure is an essential element with this age group, but by-in-large, I believe middle schoolers have more “freedoms” than in elementary.
Of course, there will be rules about cell phones, or gum chewing, or even dress codes, but teachers are aware that personal responsibility is best created by affording a child the room to grow it.
Middle schoolers, in most cases, can look forward to teachers who not treat your child “like a little kid” anymore. Kids at this age want to grow up. In middle school, we let them.
3. Larger school=more friends. Numbers don’t lie. Chances are, your child’s middle school will be larger than elementary. More people around equals more opportunities to make friends.
As for students who will be separated from friends going to different middle schools, I tend to like to remind my students that when i was thirteen, we didn’t have texting or e-mail or Facebook. We had mail boxes. Remind your child that keeping in touch has never been easier!
4. Interaction with teachers. I would recommend telling your child the following:
A) Don’t argue with the teacher. If you feel you’ve been wronged, accept the consequence and tell another adult, or you–the parent.
B) Tell your child to get to know his or her teachers. We find it refreshing when kids want to know about our personal lives. I love to share stories of what i did in high school, or what colleges I went to, or what my favorite sports team is. We’re people too!
C) Never challenge a teacher publicly. Nobody likes to be embarrassed, and I give the same advice to adults on campus. Save criticism for a time when the rest of the class can’t be an audience.
5. Join something. Middle school students really have a sense of wanting to belong. Encourage joining clubs and organizations, or student government, or a sports team of some sort.
Not only does this create opportunities to make like-minded friends, it helps to give students a sense of belonging, and of ownership of the school. This leads to school pride.
I have found that students who enjoy coming to school have the secret ingredient for high achievement. Happy people produce better. This is true for employees or anyone for whom morale can give a boost.