It’s Mom. You’ve just entered the sixth grade. Middle school. This is a big step for both of us. I am not quite sure I am ready to be a parent to a middle schooler, but I haven’t quite mastered the whole “aging my kids in reverse” thing yet, so here we go. Our next big adventure.
Though most of elementary school is a blur, I remember middle school pretty well. It can be a challenge. There are a few things I want you to know:
It can be stressful.
You suddenly have to go from room to room for each class. Hallways are crowded, time is short. You’ve got lockers, you need to bring different books to each class. The first few days can be overwhelming. You aren’t alone if you are scared. All the other sixth graders are experiencing the same thing. You will get the hang of it, I promise.
Classes are harder.
You are in the big time now. You always coasted along as one of the “smart kids” in elementary school, but the subjects get more intense beginning in middle school. I remember being totally lost when my math class began sixth grade algebra. I cried after school, thinking my days of being a good student were lost. They weren’t. I assure you, sometimes it just takes a while for things to click. My brain in sixth grade wasn’t quite ready to understand such abstract concepts. By seventh grade, I suddenly got it — and I ended up winning an award in algebra. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t understand things right away. Let your teachers, your Dad, or me know, and we will help you the best we can. Just do your best, and don’t give up.
It may be harder to bond with your teachers.
Up until this point, you have had one teacher for the entire day, 180 days a year. Your teachers have gotten to know you inside and out, and you’ve formed close bonds with each other. They have noticed any problems you were having, realized you were too shy to ask for help, and gotten in contact with me right away. I have even become friends with a few of them outside of school. (I like to believe this is because of my sparkling personality, and not because they realize that you have a string of siblings coming after you and they won’t be rid of me any time soon. Let me live my little fantasy here, OK?)
In any case, you aren’t going to see your teachers for anywhere near as long in middle school. As you travel around the building, you will see each of them for an hour or so a day, as will hundreds of other students. In many cases, it simply isn’t possible for teachers to form close bonds with every student they meet because there are so many kids, and so little time. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about you. It just means that if you are having trouble, you may have to be the one to initiate contact. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help. They became teachers for a reason — they want to help kids learn. Let them.
Kids can be mean.
Puberty and hormones and all that jazz are in full swing in middle school. Kids can be mean, sometimes for no reason other than that they want attention. Let this be known: Your dad and I don’t care if you are the smart kid, the popular kid, the athletic kid, the band kid, or any other myriad of other “kinds” of kid. We are proud of you no matter what. Unless you are the mean kid. Then, we need to talk.
I remember in sixth grade there was a girl who was bullying me. She demanded that I give her my homework to copy, and she was being mean. Another kid stood up for me. All he did was tell her to leave me alone. It was a simple interaction, so minor that he probably never gave it a second thought. I never forgot. Be that kid for somebody. There isn’t much that would make your dad and me more proud.
As you begin this new adventure, know that we are proud of you for all you have become — and for all that you will be. We hope middle school is a place full of excitement and happy experiences. And just in case it is not, remember that your family is here for you, no matter what challenges life brings. Let us know if you are having trouble, and we will do everything we can to help you out.
And if we can’t fix your problems, there is always ice cream.
PS: I promise not to kiss you in front of school, cry in front of your friends on the first day, or dance in the hallways during open house. (I make no guarantees that your baby brothers agree to the same guidelines.)
You got this.