I think we can all agree that middle school is such a tough age. There’s a lot going on with this age group mentally, physically, and emotionally. As a middle school teacher, I’ve had countless interactions with this age group and I thought I’d share some tips on how to help your child succeed, build confidence, and thrive during these transitional years from childhood to adolescence.
Personal responsibility is key.
As a 6th grade teacher, the biggest struggle I see with students in this age group is the acceptance of personal responsibility. In transitioning from elementary school to middle school, the stakes become much higher academically. Middle school is essentially a time to train these students how to be successful in high school. In the academic setting, rules and procedures are absolutely necessary and unfortunately, as teachers, we cannot make exceptions to these regulations. If we make an exception for one child, we would then have to make the exception for all children, which in turn negates the rules we’ve set in place. These rules are structured on the basis that we are helping propel your students forward to be independent, critical thinkers who can be as successful as possible both in academics and in life.
So how can you as a parent ensure your child is taking on their level of personal responsibility? Number one, communicate with your child’s teacher. Figure out how your child’s school/teachers communicate and understand that in middle school students likely have multiple teachers (one for each subject). It’s a big transition and as parents it can be a lot to keep up with. Do your best to forge relationships with those teachers and find out exactly what the classroom norms and expectations are so you can support your child in meeting them. Another great tip is to ensure your child has a place to keep up with all of his or her assignments. Some schools issue planners, but now that we’re in the digital age there are so many great tools for creating digital planners on line. Be sure to check out TeachersPayTeachers and see if you can download a fun digital planner for your kiddo. I am personally a fan of paper based planners and strongly encourage these as well. If your student can have a personal launch pad where they have all their assigned work, due dates, and information at a glance it will help keep them accountable to get it all done.
Be cognizant of your child’s screen time.
Now that all homework and classwork has been digitized and formatted for the computer, it can be hard to draw a line between our child’s school time and play time. If they aren’t on the computer doing homework, they may be playing a game or watching YouTube videos. They could be on their cell phones chatting with friends. You as the parent get to set the boundaries, but understand that there is a lot of information out there in the world for kids to access whether you want them to or not. I highly suggest monitoring what your children are doing online to protect them, but to also hold them accountable. Make sure that if they have an assignment they’re actually working on it and not wasting time on the internet procrastinating. Encourage your kids to get outside and set their Chromebook or laptop up on the patio so they can get some fresh air as they work.
Now that we have more students learning from home than ever, it’s important to help them understand the importance of blocking off their time. Being in front of a screen all day is exhausting for adults, and even more so for kids. Make sure they know when to step back and take a break and get some fresh air or sunshine so that they don’t get overwhelmed.
Teach them to have some grace.
Students sometimes have great misconceptions about their teachers like that we spend our whole weekend grading papers or planning lessons. I think it’s very easy for students to forget teachers are normal people, just like their parents. We also have families and have to set boundaries between our work and personal lives. In the times we have found ourselves in this year, it’s been more important than ever for grace to abound for all of us.