Tips for Mastering Middle School

The middle school years are often described as exciting and a little awkward. Students may feel anxious about the new social circumstances and making lasting friendships. There are also new, additional tasks including a series of academic and co-curricular classes, an ever-increasing workload, a menu of extra-curricular activities and the concept of a social life beyond the playground. Staying organized on a daily basis and throughout the year is important to one’s success. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, middle school will become more manageable with persistence, planning, and focus. The following tips will help your middle school student have a successful and meaningful experience in the middle school setting.

Plan Ahead

Using an academic planner or agenda is a tremendous method of organizing a student’s academic life and activities beyond the classroom. Every Beacon learner receives a customized planner at the beginning of each school year. Planners are used in each Beacon classroom and students are expected to bring them to school each day. The Beacon planner includes key academic tools like the Periodic Table, a collection of universal math formulas, common vocabulary terms, maps of the United States and the world and other useful pages that make information easily accessible to the learner. Additionally, using a smartphone calendar app will assist in keeping track of upcoming tasks and events.  Scheduling time for studying, project deadlines, homework assignments, sports practices, and social events are all necessary in order to balance the middle school life. Create a storage place for extra supplies such as pens, pencil, erasers and notebook paper. Make sure other key academic spaces, such as one’s backpack and locker, are neatly organized. Planning and preparing ahead of time will decrease your student’s stress level while increasing time to explore new interests and thoroughly experience all that middle school has to offer.

Don’t Be a Follower

Encourage your middle schooler to follow his or her own path, as this is the time for young teens to practice making choices that are healthy and productive. As one’s social life develops and expands, the number of opportunities to participate in risky, sometimes dangerous behaviors increases as well. Experimenting with alcohol, nicotine products, and at times, even illegal drugs, is common during the teen years for a percentage of young people. These behaviors can become long-term habits and may limit one’s ability to perform at the highest level academically, as well as athletically and co-curricularly. These activities can impact an individual for years to come, all starting for many with the strong pull of peer pressure. Selecting a social circle that shares one’s values and priorities is incredibly important. Talk to your student about thinking carefully before participating in activities that makes him or her uncomfortable or scared. Encourage them to recognize their own value and potential, to allow their true personality to shine. True friends look out for one another and encourage each other in positive, affirming, and supportive ways.

Open Your Mind and Heart to All of the Possibilities

The middle school social scene often is an official introduction to romantic relationships, intertwined with brief acquaintances, long-term friendships, and the historic teenage crush. It is important that young people learn to value one another as individuals, recognizing that the world of relationships can be incredibly confusing and even unpredictable at times. These connections are constantly changing during middle school, so remind your student to stay open to possibilities. Try not to take these events too seriously, while recognizing in the moment, this can be an overwhelming experience for your teen. Rejection, even in the 7th Grade, can understandably feel terrible and a young person is left heartbroken. Help your middle school student remember his or her value, focusing on friends who want to spend time with him or her and all that lies ahead.

Stand Up to Bullying

Bullying can break one’s spirit, and middle school seems to be the time that this type of behavior is most prevalent. Ensure that your student understands the definition of bullying and chooses not only to avoid such behaviors, but to stand up against those who treat others in ways that are disrespectful, harmful, humiliating, or demeaning. Equally important, teens need to be encouraged and expected to operate with kindness and empathy when interacting with others. By focusing on the positive behaviors that define the Character Traits of the Beacon Network, students are celebrated for treating others with respect and concern, as we see these guiding principles as lifelong habits each student ideally possesses far beyond the middle school years. As conflict is part of any community and an aspect of each relationship we form,  conflict resolution and problem solving are skills one must practice in order to participate in healthy, ongoing friendships and interactions. Encourage your student to talk with counselors, teachers and other adults they trust when difficulties arise or conflict with a peer seems unmanageable. Remind them that no one deserves to be mistreated in any manner and remind them they have the ability and power to be up-standers instead of simply bystanders when problematic events, such as witnessing bullying, occur at school or in any setting.

Blossoming in Middle School

Middle school is often a significant adjustment, socially and academically, as schedules grow in complexity, options expand exponentially and choices abound in every arena. Young teens need guidance, structure, reassurance, and room to grow as they navigate this diverse, exciting, and sometimes overwhelming chapter of multi-faceted transition. Despite the plethora of challenges and adjustments, success and happiness during these critical years is absolutely attainable. Continue to remind yourself there are countless resources created specifically to assist you as you assist your middle schooler in finding that personalized pathway towards success in the classroom and beyond, creating a plan to dream, experience, and thrive in this new environment.