Inspired Insights: Encouragement to the Middle School Family

If you’ve had a child come through my classroom as a sixth or seventh grader, you’ve probably heard me say that there is a lot in common between toddlers and 12 year olds. Ms. Ingram, one of our preschool teachers, and I often notice similarities between our classes this time of year.

Toddlers and preteens are both learning to interact with the world around them in new ways. As they are acquiring these new skills, they often experience frustration and test boundaries to navigate the new waters they find themselves entering. While this boundary testing is confusing for the adults caring for them, it is how children map out the ways in which they can be successful during their next stage of development.
 
 
 
Our first promoted class of middle school students enjoyed creating lessons for our preschool students as a part of a unit on the changing earth’s surface.
 

In sharing a couple of articles with you today, my goal is twofold: for those of you entering a new life as a parent of a preteen, take heart, the days are long, but the years are short; for those of you not understanding why your friend’s oldest in middle school is suddenly a different child or your friend seems harried or frustrated all the time, be encouraging, supportive, and empathetic.

Raising pre-teens is hard, but important, work.
 
 

One of our current seventh graders, Imani Brooks, teaches a lesson about ecology to a group of preschoolers.
 

Age 12

The first article I recommend is "Age 12 Is Like A Second Toddlerhood". As you read this article, please think about the sixth and seventh graders in your life. It is such an exciting time for them. But do not let their increasingly adult looking silhouettes fool you. They share much in common with the two or three year olds that are on the playground waiting for their older siblings to come out the door.

If you would like more information on the developmental stages the children in our school are experiencing, I highly recommend “Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14,” by Chip Wood. It is written with teachers as the audience, and it is a great resource to take up where “What to Expect the Toddler Years,” leaves off.

A Dress Rehearsal for Life

The second recommended article appeared in the Washington Post earlier this month. “To raise independent kids, treat middle school like a dress rehearsal for life” includes the reflections of a middle school teacher as he sends his last child into middle school:

“Middle school is a dress rehearsal. It’s almost always messy, and we worry that it foreshadows a disastrous future for our children. Meaning well, we jump in and initiate, fix and micromanage, telling ourselves we will stop when the child matures enough to take over. But middle school is supposed to be messy. It’s how kids mature. This means making lots of mistakes, then experiencing consequences just strong enough to be an incentive for correction, but not strong enough to damage a life.”

The pre-teen years are so important as children are trying to figure out what their adult personalities are going to be. If it seems like they are an adult one-minute and a child the next, they are. They are stuck in the middle, and it’s an amazing place to be.