Middle School: Where Everybody Belongs

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. High Words of Wisdom-you might just learn something!
  1. Be on time and pay attention and LISTEN in class.  Don’t procrastinate!
  1. Use your planner. Get things done as soon as possible. Stay organized!
  1. Make a good first impression with your teachers and new friends.
  1. Understand and follow the rules.  Don’t share your locker combo.
  1. Stay healthy. Get plenty of sleep and eat breakfast. Bring a snack and lunch, too!
  1. Follow the dress code. Get to class on time!
  1. Try not to get stressed out. Ask teachers or counselors for help in classes if you need it.
  1. Participate in class and other fun stuff at school.  Make an effort!
  1. Don’t feel shy – include new people in your group of friends. 
Words of Wisdom for us all, don’t you think?
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Jennifer Wolfe

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. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe at jenniferwolfe.net.

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  1. Those really are practical, down-to-earth, extraordinarily helpful suggestions for how each student can make the coming year an enjoyable and successful one.

    So much, of course, depends on whether the children have food at home to eat for breakfast and if they have a way to get to school on time and clean clothes to wear and if they had an environment in which to do their homework. So much lies beyond the school.

    I’m wondering what Emerson Junior High can do or does do about those factors in the lives of their students.

  2. Thanks, Dee! I completely agree about the influence of the home on the student. One thing I’ve noticed with the WEB program is that by promoting connectivity, the teachers and staff seem to pick up on the students who haven’t had their basic needs met at home. We have a great support system at school between counselors, the nurse, resource teachers, classroom teachers and paraprofessionals. As an AVID teacher, I serve as a liason between school, student and home, and have the privledge of helping kids meet their academic and personal goals. We do the best we can with the students while we have them at school, and we try to get them support services as needed for their at home life. It definitely takes a village…

  3. After my first week back with my 7th graders, I think this post is definitely right on. Some of mine were very obviously nervous though, poor dears.

    We only have two grades in our middle school, so kids are in and out so fast it’s hard to build community. It’s definitely something we need to work on though.

    I came over from the vB Grow your GFC hop, but I was already a fan. Your link is not working over there, just so you know.

    http://www.vbhoppermania.com/2011/08/grow-my-gfc.html

    Jenny
    http://www.fullcartfullwallet.com

  4. Such sweet photos.
    We don’t have middle school in Canada – wondering if that’s a good or bad thing!
    Thanks for the follow – stopping by from voiceBoks to follow back.

  5. Some of those ideas actually pertain to everyday life, showing up on time being prepared, and not being afraid to meet new friends. Dropping by from VB GFC hop to become your newest follower. looking forward to getting to know you. Have a fantastic week!

  6. What a great program! I remember how nervous I was when I started middle school many years ago.

    Visiting and following from vB. Have a great week!

  7. Hi Jen. Love the WEB program. My husband runs a similar program at the high school called Link Crew. Wish they had had these program when we were that age! Both my kids benefited tremendously from the WEB program and I am very grateful. Made ME less nervous as their mother!! Junior High is a tough time. Anything the school and parents can do to make it less so, is to be commended. Thanks for your thoughtful post.
    MA
    http://thebiggreenbowl.blogspot.com
    http://thinkinginmyheadma.blogspot.com

  8. Thank you for your wonderful comments~

    Jenny- We’ve actually been accused of making them TOO comfortable-they get talkative much more quickly and some teachers can’t handle that. I say – HA!

    Susan -how does Canada break down their grades? I actually was trained in WEB by a woman from Canada!

    Brenda- so true! I learn so much from my students!

    Michael Ann- Link Crew is a tremendous program-as my daughter started high school this year, I was really mourning no program to make her feel more included and comfortable.

  9. Hi there, Im actually stopping by via the VoiceBoks Grow My GFC and am a new fan/follower of yours. I enjoyed reading your post. My kids are 21 (twins) and 19 and I get so nostalgic reading the posts of moms with younger children.
    God Bless you,
    Anne from Good Steward Savers! 🙂

  10. WEB sounds like a fantastic program – I’ve never heard of it before.
    I think the greatest thing about it is the way the older kids mentor the younger ones. Kids are so much more inclined to listen to other kids than teachers and I am positive their orientation and transition into middle school was smooth and successful.
    Well done!

  11. Elisabeth – it is a great program-an she’s now a lovely teenager!

    Good Steward – I feel exactly the same way when I read about little babies and toddlers!

    Tough Cookie-it goes so fast…enjoy third grade!

    Teachermum-you’re exactly right! The kids helping kids model is so powerful.

    Karen-Why, thank you! I appreciate the support!

  12. WOW! This is more than school related ( could be applied here and there). I have on in junior high and the other is a freshman in college but can see this being a bible of sorts. BTW, I like your new look. I’ve been traveling (college drop off) and behind in reading.

  13. Thanks, Brenda! I completely agree-these words of wisdom can apply to most of us in our adult lives, too! Switch locker combo for…social security number? VISA? 🙂

  14. Just finished our 2 day training of 45 8th graders for our 6th grade WEB orientation on Monday! It is a fantastic program that helps to create a community. Woot woot!

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