As we begin the second semester of this school year, it is gratifying to consider the significant growth our students have experienced thus far. The middle school years are full of important transitions for students, many exciting, inspiring, and motivating and some painful and anxiety-producing. Psychologists often compare the period of early adolescence to the rapid and remarkable time of transition that occurs for infants and toddlers between birth and age two. While the changes middle school students experience might not be quite so obvious to the casual observer, their parents and teachers know that the physical, emotional, and cognitive growth they experience can be just as dramatic.
Students enter sixth grade full of anticipation and trepidation. Typically, they are ready for something more and eager for opportunities to interact with a larger group of classmates and experience greater independence and challenge in their course work. Our sixth grade team does a masterful job of helping students develop the organizational skills needed for success in middle school. Students adjust to our rotating schedule, learn to manage their assignments and assessments well with the support of technology, and embrace the challenge of course work that requires more abstract thinking and problem-solving and offers increasing opportunities for creative expression.
Our teachers and counselors also are sensitive to the angst that sixth graders experience as they face the reality of changing friendships and the inevitable peer competition and pressure that are part of the middle school experience for most adolescents. Support from caring professionals and their families makes a big difference as students navigate these challenges. Social and emotional changes feel immense to middle school students, and the strong net of support from empathetic adults continues to be valuable throughout the middle school years.
In seventh grade most students enter the school year more confident in terms of knowing what is expected as they grapple with increasing expectations for responsibility and independence in managing their school work. Our experienced seventh grade team skillfully raises the academic bar as the year progresses, using data from sixth grade to inform their work with students on skill development and reinforcement. Students continue to wrestle with the ups and downs of friendships as they become more peer focused and struggle for independence from their parents.
In eighth grade, our students are looking ahead to high school while enjoying an important leadership position in middle school. Course work for high school credit necessitates greater accountability for students and getting a head start with meeting high school requirements provides needed challenge for many students and will benefit them with greater flexibility for elective choices in our upper school program. Social connections and friendships begin to stabilize and students gain clarity about their unique talents and passions and ways that they can positively impact their community. By the end of the year, the majority of eighth graders have blossomed with both academic confidence and improved self-awareness that will serve them well in the years ahead. The opportunity to support students and observe the significant growth and progress they achieve in the middle school journey of transition is a rewarding enterprise for all educators who love this age-group!