By Jillian Boudreau, Lower School Director of Student Services
In today’s society in seems as though educational competition is higher than ever and students start worrying about college acceptances at a much younger age. As a parent, there is also the challenge of sorting through all of the information to prepare your child for high school and then college. Preparing middle schoolers for high school involves a team effort involving, students, parents, and faculty. Outlined in this post are a few strategies for how to best go about the process.
Middle School as Practice
Middle school is a time for students to learn about their strengths and weaknesses and how to leverage their areas of strength to prepare for success. It is a time for students to learn study skills and how to manage his or her time. With multiple assignments, students must learn how to set up their weekly schedule so there is not too much coursework in one night. Most schools provide online student information systems that helps to create transparency of class assignments and assists students with planning ahead. These systems also provide parents a helpful way to make sure their children are completing their work. High schools will ask for report cards from grades 6, 7, and 8, so it is important students prepare accordingly. However, middle school is a time for students to learn and grow. If a student does poorly on a test, or misses an assignment deadline, it is a great opportunity for a teachable moment. Use the opportunity to talk with your child about what went wrong and what could be done differently next time for improvement. Also, children should be encouraged to reach out to his or her teacher or a guidance counselor for assistance. Parents can also suggest that the student take the initiative to compose an email to the appropriate person, or to stop by and make an appointment for extra help. Middle school is a time for students to learn about taking ownership of their academics and to utilize available resources, while in a flexible, nurturing environment. Also, to learn about responsibility while in an environment which recognizes students are still young and will need assistance at times. These small steps will start to prepare your child for the independent environment of high school.
Start to Talk about Next Steps
As your child begins to enter middle school, start talking about next steps in the future. Schools often provide mini assignments which include planning high school courses, researching what the acceptance requirements are for their dream college, or which colleges offer the major courses of study that match their dream career. The purpose of these exercises is not to stress students out, but to get them thinking and excited for the future. Developmentally, middle school students’ brains are very internally focused and it is sometimes challenging to see the bigger picture. Having ideas about future goals encourages achievement and then adding conversations about more realistic components, such as college majors or advanced degrees, starts to give those ideas some life and can encourage academics day to day. Parents should be poised to follow up these exercises with casual conversations at home. Remember that the ideas that come to life during these exploratory exercises are just ideas, ideas which are likely to change. If a students wants to further information or resources they should turn to their guidance office personnel for direction and advice.
The third way to prepare children for high school is to support stress management. Between academics, extracurriculars, and daily life activities, middle school students are busy! However, as students grow older, life will only bring more tasks and more stress, making it important for students to learn effective stress management and coping strategies early on. Parents should ask themselves whether their child strives for the highest grade at all times to the point of being overly worried or stressed. If so, the next time he or she receives a lower than desired grade, go out to dinner or do something fun together to celebrate that not everyone is perfect. At the time, this may seem like the worst idea to the child, but it will help him/her to learn coping skills. Speaking from personal experience, celebrating my first lower than desired grade in middle school, made the lower than anticipated grade I earned in high school and college easier to accept and to move forward from. Alternatively, maybe the child is one who doesn’t always plan out projects well and tends to cram everything into the night before the assignment is due setting the household up for a stressful night. Allow the child to take a break for a few minutes and walk away, five to ten minutes maximum. Then after that project is turned in, ask the child what could have been done differently next time and work together to plan it out. In the moment, the child may not want to discuss it, but maybe go for an ice cream and bring it up. Sometimes talking about academics or what can be perceived as “boring” topics to students, while doing a fun activity opens up minds and conversations a bit. Finally, middle schoolers tend to be focused on their friendships and social lives as part of their developmental age. In a technology world, it is important to still support activities that will allow for stress relief and face-to-face social interaction. Encourage your child to try yoga, go for a walk, or join a club or a team of interest, for an additional outlet. Although the school year is so busy, it is important to take time to stop and relax because it will only better prepare the child for the stressors of the future.
Middle School is a challenging and exciting time for students. There will be emotional highs and lows, academic achievements and successes, throughout the day, the month, and the year. However, it is important to remember that each day is a teachable moment and a step in the right direction. We all look back at our middle school years as a time of friendships ups and downs, academic excellence and challenges, and questionable fashion choices. However, we always remember the people who loved and supported us no matter what.
Here at the Academy
Here at the Academy, our faculty and administration supports our students and their parents through the middle school years and guides them step-by-step through the process of preparing students for high school success. Families are encouraged to use us as a resource to assist with questions and advice anytime.
We offer our families a powerful tool through Veracross, our student information system. Veracross student and parent portals provide student schedules, homework assignments, teacher feedback and grades. It helps students to plan ahead and organize their time and it helps parents to keep abreast of how their child is doing.
Our middle school curriculum includes time for college exploration through a series of research assignments designed to help them start thinking about how to align their interests and skills with potential high school, college and career choices. Through this team approach and open communication between home and the school, students at the Academy enjoy successful middle school journeys, which educate and prepare them for life.