The first time I heard about One Word goal setting was from my smart, inspiring sister-in-law. The basic idea? Instead of using time-oriented, achievable, measurable goals as inspiration, choose just one word to focus on, to become a personal motto, a mantra, something that captures your passion.
This year, I decided to start the school year with a One Word activity. After explaining my choice to my students (POSITIVE), I asked them to pick a word for themselves. They wrote an explanation for the word they’d selected, giving me a quick way to gauge where they are as writers. As is always the case with meaningful writing, they showed me much more than their knowledge of punctuation and sentence structure.
They showed me their insight. One student chose SMILE as her word. “When I am happier,” she writes, “I accomplish more.”
As I rushed to get the last of the words displayed in time for Parents Night, it occurred to me that it’s not just my students who are entering a new phase of life. Parenting middle school children seems to require a new set of skills, a host of new strategies. Our children are growing and stretching themselves right into young adulthood, and what worked effectively just yesterday can seem like a lesson in futility today.
As parents of middle school kids, what one word might we choose? Honestly, there’ve been days my best inner pep talk boiled down to this: SURVIVE. So I asked three of my favorite moms what one word they’d suggest.
Mary Ellen Stickle, my book-loving aunt from Pennsylvania, has ushered three boys into adulthood. Even though some of the struggles they faced in middle school were things she thought she’d want to forget, she now sees them as stepping stones to the men they are today. Try to view struggles as accomplishment.
Simone O’Connor, a clinical social worker who’s been working with adolescents for years, recommends the word accept. Learn to accept the mood swings and inconsistencies of your middle schooler rather than fighting against them.
Carrie Sheppard offers this practical parenting hack: Find humor in the chaos. “If I don’t laugh,” she says, “I will cry.”
If you’re a new middle school parent, welcome. I wish you years of laughter.
Martha Guarisco is a National Board Certified English Language Arts teacher and freelance writer. Prior to joining the faculty at Episcopal 13 years ago, she taught in Ascension Parish, where she was Teacher of the Year. She earned both her BA in English literature and her M.Ed. in English education from Louisiana State University. One of her particular areas of recent study is literature’s effect on adolescents’ empathy development.