Let's overcome the fear for middle school together!

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Moving from the protected environment of grade school into the big world of middle school can be very overwhelming to preteens. I often hear them speculating on the rumors they have heard; war stories spread by cruel older students. The younger students get picked on. There are drugs everywhere. The school work is too hard. While they are eager to move up, they are often very frightened as well.

The preteen years are very challenging, for both the students and the adults who teach them. Many schools can't figure out what to do with these children. They aren't children any more, but they certainly aren't teenagers. Some schools, sadly, look upon middle school as little more than a place holder, something to keep kids busy until they get to high school. The work is little more than a review. Gimmicks like uniforms take the place of real discipline programs.

Other schools, happily, are rising to the challenge of the middle school student. There are exciting programs going on in which schools strive to challenge these tweenagers and to assist them with their transitions. Because it is hard for children to adjust to leaving the safety of a single classroom, some schools have the students stay in academic classes over two periods, allowing them more time with their teachers and peers, while still adjusting to multiple teachers.

Parents need to spend some time preparing their children for the challenges they will face. Most middle schools offer a parent orientation. Be sure you attend it and be prepared to ask pointed questions. You should ask about the curriculum and any programs for special needs. Find out who is available to help your child if he has difficulty with the adjustment. Ask about discipline programs and extracurricular activities. What are the requirements for homework?

Talk to your children about what to expect. Teach them to do things you might take for granted, like opening a combination lock. Will your child have to change their clothes in an open locker room? This is traumatic for many children, and you should warn them about the experience in a positive way. At this age, children are sensitive about the ways their bodies are changing in comparison to their friends. Help them memorize their schedule and a map of the school. Show them where to keep the schedule so they won't forget where to go.

If your child has never had multiple teachers, he may find the task of juggling assignments very difficult. You will need to help him set up a study schedule, learning to prioritize and balance his workload. He may also find it hard to adjust to differing expectations from multiple teachers. Ask him to tell you about each teacher. What does the teacher expect? How demanding is he? What kind of work does he prefer? How does he grade? What kinds of tests does he give?

I hope those above suggestions may help you and your child live through the fear for middle school.
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