It’s not time for you to leave your son or daughter completely on his own yet when it comes to school.
Too often parents who have stayed at home or worked part-time think that sixth or seventh grade is enough time for them to begin working full time. That’s a mistake! The switch to middle school is just a big step-often even greater than planning to high school. Middle schools are generally big-more than twice or even three times as huge as the elementary schools that students are coming from. Kids feed in from sometimes as much as six or seven elementary schools. To top that off, as opposed to moving during the day with the exact same group of kids, most middle school kids regroup every period. A student is lucky to stay class with someone he knows much less a friend.
The curriculum really does get harder.
This content standards for early adolescence create a jump in the amount of critical thinking and problem solving required. The pace is relentlessas teach to one the emphasis is on getting through the whole set of standards rather than mastering a few key ones. At my school, when we looked over the 6th graders’marks, they were lower first trimester than second and lower second than third. Even the very best students wobbled a little while adjusting to the change in academic expectations. Parents should know this and reassure their kids that they may find out how to deal with middle school work given time, but many schools don’t give parents that information.
Middle School teachers get “harder.”
The biggest change, however, could be the mentality of middle school teachers. Unlike elementary school teachers who see their primary goal as encouraging self-esteem and a love of learning, junior high teachers lean towards focusing on kids accepting that a lot of life is all about jumping through hoops and doing things in a particular way. Docking points for incorrect paper headings and wasting papers with no names on them is common practice.
Students will complain their teachers are mean. We don’t see ourselves as mean. We see that people are the final stop before high school where kids can still get low grades with no consequence to their long-term future. We feel it is our job to instruct what high school will be like before it counts towards graduation and college admissions. In 6th-8th grade, grading shifts from assessment of a student’s ability to an examination of her performance. Which means the student who has skated by on test scores and a periodic brilliant project is now going to find out that consistency and focus on detail are actually more highly valued. These are very important skills to master before high school.
It feels as though parents aren’t wanted, but that is not true.
Parents often feel left from the equation in middle school. Because their children might say they don’t really want them there and since there is no room parent organizing volunteer activities, they feel unsure of how to be part of school or, worse, they feel unwelcome. Although it does work that you might not be asked to man math centers weekly, it is not true that parents aren’t needed or wanted. Being involved at school by any means provides you with an opportunity to stay linked to your son or daughter at time when his instinct is to shift toward his peers.
Even if you do not volunteer in your child’s class, by finding a volunteer job at school, you will hear more about what’s going on. You’ll learn what clubs and activities are available to your son or daughter and will be able to encourage her at home to participate whether it’s the joining the team or becoming a member of the spelling bee. As you fold flyers or stuff envelopes, you will overhear gossip about which administrators are supportive and which are a waste of time for you to approach. You’ll learn the rational for the newest homework policy and what teachers are doing to organize kids for their state tests.
Middle school is an occasion for parents to step back, but not to step away.
Parents are still a child’s touchstone. They are still the very best person to greatly help a child process what she is experiencing. Getting grades centered on percentages for the first time can be quite a real blow to the ego. A child’s sense of himself could be seriously shaken as he’ll associate his grade with how smart he is. A parent will help a lot by making the distinction between intelligence and following procedure and letting a child know that both are part of being successful in life. Parents can continue to be there as a sounding board, but if previously they’ve done the majority of the talking, it is time to develop deep listening skills. Asking your son or daughter, “What’s your following step here?” might get you farther than, “Here’s what you should do.”
What does stepping back seem like?
Stepping back might take the shape of letting a child suffer the results of lost or incomplete homework without swooping in to defend the child. (Do continue to provide plenty of empathy so it feels awful to own worked hard on something and then not get credit for it because of 1 little mistake-like not putting your name on your paper or forgetting it on your desk at home.) Stepping back often means not micro managing students’projects but asking questions like,’What’s your arrange for spreading out the task of the project?” or “Perhaps you have done your best work?” or “What part with this paper are you currently especially happy with?” When students get graded work back, as opposed to focusing on the grade, parents can ask, “What’s your arrange for doing better the next occasion?” or “What resources are you experiencing to get help understanding this?” Above all parents will help their kids talk to adults at school not by doing the talking for them but by roleplaying how conversations with a teacher or administrator might go. In this manner, a parent continues to be staying connected and supporting his child and at once allowing his child to stand on his own two feet.
These school years are enough time for parents to stay connected and know what’s going on, but it can also be time for them to position themselves as guide rather than driver of these child’s life.