It’s funny, the little things you forget about being a middle schooler. Like, how do I use my locker so that I’m not carrying everything around all day long? What am I supposed to do if I’m absent? How do I remember what’s for homework? How do I study for tests? And, when do I go to the bathroom?!
The transition from elementary to middle school is a big one, and it’s easy for both students and parents to be caught off guard by it. At the same time, it’s a remarkable period of growth and self-discovery.
Nurturing Wisdom’s co-owner Jeanne Rerucha knows this firsthand! She’s a former middle school teacher, and two of her three daughters are currently in middle school. Here, Jeanne shares what she’s learned over the years so that you know what to expect and how to support your child.
One of the biggest changes you’ll notice from elementary school is how much less communication you’ll get from the school. You’ll be in the dark about what’s happening in class as well as extra-curricular activities. It’s not that they don’t want you to be involved, but that they’re not going to initiate. That’s up to you and your child.
I recommend connecting with each teacher a few weeks into the school year, once they’ve had a chance to get to know your child a bit. Establishing a relationship early makes it easier for you and the teachers to collaborate when you need to later.
Teachers expect that your child will be much more independent than they were just a few short months ago. For example, when teachers assign long-term projects, they’ll likely just give due dates (and maybe grading rubrics) and send the kids on their way. It will be up to your child to figure out how to break them down into manageable pieces, coordinate with their group, determine what supplies are needed, and everything else that goes along with group (or solo) project assignments.
Don’t assume that your kiddo knows how to do these things! Explicit teaching of executive functioning skills varies from school to school, so spend time strategizing with them to figure out what will work best. This goes for establishing a homework tracking system, setting up an after school routine, and studying for tests, too!
The trick is giving your child room for trial and error as they learn how to be independent. Follow the teachers’ lead and resist hand-holding when they should be doing a task on their own. If they mess up, talk about it and help them figure out specific steps to take next time. Think of middle school as training ground for later, more high stakes years.
I don’t want it to sound like teachers are just leaving kids to their own devices! Teachers love it when students come to them for guidance, so talk with your child about scheduling and planning regular check-in meetings. These are great not only for projects, but also for test review and homework help. Your child will learn more about how they learn, what’s important to each teacher, and how to take ownership of their education. Practicing self-advocacy skills now will make a huge difference in high school and college (are you sensing a theme yet?).
Another note about teachers at the middle school level: they are highly specialized in their subject area. They’re passionate about what they’re teaching and want students to get excited about it! This often means that students are exposed to real-world applications, hands-on experiments, and current events. It’s fun to have conversations about what they’re learning and how it’s fitting into their world view. This past year, my family became much more savvy about energy use after a science unit resonated with my daughter : )
There’s a lot to keep tabs on as your child settles into middle school! It’s a bittersweet time of scaffolding and gentle nudges as they develop all kinds of new skills. Should you need any extra support along the way, you know where to find us.