Middle School: The Ideal Beginning

The middle school years encompass the most transformative experiences in any adolescent. Parents and schools should live a close partnership developing the habits of the mind and heart that will form future engaged citizens who will lead thoughtfully and serve generously. As parents, we can empower our children and prepare them for what lies ahead by choosing a school that challenges them to develop in wisdom and virtue.

Middle school is a foundational time in the life of a child. It is a defining moment as she discovers her identity as a student, family member, and future professional. Adolescents are growing in autonomy, learning about themselves, and discovering where they “fit in” academically and socially.
 
Laura Bell, a middle school dean at Oakcrest, notes, “This is the first time students are asking the questions; What kind of learner am I? What are my individual and unique strengths and where might they take me in the future? Having a teacher that meets your child where she is academically and socially is just the beginning of the wonderful adventure of raising lifelong learners, who will think critically and make ethical decisions.”
 
Effective educators inspire students to give their full potential and own their learning process. Every teacher should know how her own expertise can dramatically impact students’ academic achievement and social development. Schools and home have to work collaboratively with each other in order to better address the needs of both students and their families.

In addition, cultivating character through the curriculum adds measurable value to a student’s experience. Gone are the days when students can say, “My mom didn’t tell me this was due today.” An article in The Atlantic entitled “Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework” explains that giving your child more personal responsibility helps her become better prepared for the future.1 The middle school years begin to reinforce responsibility and ownership. When choosing where your child will learn these life skills, a few important guideposts can help parents along the way.
 
Parent Partnership: Look for a school that shares your family values. A school with a strong parent partnership will more effectively foster your child’s development during these years of self-discovery.
 
Role Models: Look for a school that provides a strong mentoring program where your child can develop a trusting teacher/student partnership. Hearing messages that align with your vision and values from another trusted source helps young people begin to make those values their own.
 
Curriculum: Choose a school that will challenge your child in all areas of her life; mind, body and spirit. A school that inspires your child to try new things such as music, arts, sports, languages and clubs strengthens character and encourages risk-taking.
 
The middle school years are a crucial stage in your child’s journey of developing her habits of the mind and of the heart. Choose a middle school that inspires your child to deepen her intellectual and personal growth to be able to serve and impact our society in thoughtful, reflective and humble ways. Striving for that excellence is an art won by training and habituation.
 
 
 
1. Dana Goldstein, “Don't Help Your Kids With Their Homework,” The Atlantic, April 2104, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/ 2014/04/and-dont-help-your-kids-with-their-homework/358636/.
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