It’s the first day of kindergarten…parents lined up at the door, new backpacks grace the backs of eager (and some not so eager) young students dressed in their new school clothes. Mom and dad hover, some concerned, some triumphant-all documenting the day with flashes from cameras and smart phones.
Flash forward seven years-it’s middle school. Yikes! No more hovering-at least not where the kids can see you! New backpacks-maybe, if they’re cool. Dressing down instead of dressing up. Photos? No way-those had to be done at home, out of sight of the friends.
I’ve spent the last week working with my 8th and 9th grade leadership students getting ready to welcome every 7th grader to our school. It’s a beautiful thing, really. Believe it or not, those 7th graders are pretty nervous-they just don’t want anyone to know it.
At Emerson Junior High, we take two days of summer vacation to train students how to mentor the incoming 7th grade students using the WEB program. Through team building, get to know you activities, and tons of leadership skills, we build a program to make every kid feel like they belong at our school.
The day before school starts, we run a four hour orientation that starts as 265 students in the gym, breaks down to small groups, and ends up with the WEB leaders and 10 7th grade ‘webbies’ in classrooms getting to know each other and helping the new kids feel more connected to their new school. And NO PARENTS are allowed!
WEB has been a fantastic program for our school-we’ve seen discipline issues reduce and connectivitiy increase. Our school climate thrives with the ‘students helping students succeed’ approach…and despite all the hard work and energy it takes right before we start our ‘real’ teaching jobs, we get a trememdous satisfaction watching the magic happen.
One of the most important things the WEB leaders share with their 7th graders are ‘Words of Wisdom’ about how to survive and thrive in middle school. They are brutally honest-I guess it comes with their own ‘trial and error’!
Those middle school days can be a real test of our parenting skills – so much to learn, and no handbook to go by! So, if you’re a parent, a teacher or a middle schooler, take a look at the Emerson Jr. HighWords of Wisdom-you might just learn something!
Be on time and pay attention and LISTEN in class. Don’t procrastinate!
Use your planner. Get things done as soon as possible. Stay organized!
Make a good first impression with your teachers and new friends.
Understand and follow the rules. Don’t share your locker combo.
Stay healthy. Get plenty of sleep and eat breakfast. Bring a snack and lunch, too!
Follow the dress code. Get to class on time!
Try not to get stressed out. Ask teachers or counselors for help in classes if you need it.
Participate in class and other fun stuff at school. Make an effort!
Don’t feel shy – include new people in your group of friends.
Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.