Middle School Success 101
“MIDDLE SCHOOL” – two words that strike fear into the heart of every parent, and every student for that matter. But really, it doesn’t have to be scary at all. With a few practical tips and proactive parenting, you can set your child up for a seamless and successful transition from elementary to middle school.
Attendance is Critical
It is important to set the expectation of regular attendance from the beginning. It is not surprising that students with higher rates of attendance perform better in school, and according to the U.S. Department of Education, “Irregular attendance can be a better predictor of whether students will drop out before graduation than test scores.”
We also know that just “showing up” doesn’t cut it. Talk to your child about the importance of going to school every day, as well as being prepared, focused and ready to work. They need to treat school like a job. Building a strong work ethic will serve them well, both now and in the future.
Because life happens, your child will likely miss a day or two. If it is planned, then reach out to teachers ahead of time and see if it’s possible to get the work that your child will miss. In case of an unplanned absence, make sure that you are aware of the school’s policy on make-up work and how students should get that from teachers when they return.
Good Note-Taking Skills are Important
For some of us this seems like an innate skill, but most students need to learn a way of taking notes that works well for them. You can easily search methods of taking notes online, or you can reach out to the middle school that your child will attend – most school websites house an untapped pool of resources.
Learning this skill in middle school, if they haven’t already, will set them on the path to a successful academic career – in high school and beyond.
Homework Is a Priority
It might seem like an obvious statement, but homework is important. Your child might find they have more homework than they did in elementary school, so helping them come up with a consistent, daily plan will set them up for success. The plan you develop will depend on your child’s personality, as well as other activities they might be involved in. Some kids love to come home, eat a quick snack and get homework done so they can enjoy the rest of the day. Other kids need more of a break and want some time to chill before diving into their assignments. You also will want to factor in sport practices, music lessons or other time commitments. The important thing is to find a system that works for them. Give them a voice in developing a plan, but then hold them accountable.
Organization is Key
One of the beautiful challenges of middle school is helping your child become more independent. Don’t get me wrong, we all know that they are ready to move out, get a job and never look back, but there are few steps between here and there. It is important to use middle school as preparation for high school and beyond.
Do they know how to schedule their days and weeks? Do they know how to manage projects, deadlines and exam schedules? Let’s face it – many adults aren’t the best at time management either, so maybe it’s something you can learn together. Talk to them about the importance of time management and let them help select an appropriate planner or calendar. Some kids like digital versions, some prefer a hardcopy version they can keep in their backpack and others want a big dry erase calendar in their bedroom. Help them find a system that works for them.
The key is consistently using the methods they select. Confirm weekly – or maybe daily at first – that they are using the tool(s) they have selected and reward them in some small way to reinforce the behavior.
So ready or not, here comes middle school! But there is no need to panic. Talk to your kid, make a plan, find humor in the ups and downs of middle school drama and enjoy the ride. There is a lot you can do to straighten the curves and smooth out the bumps. You’ve got this!