Easing the Shift From Elementary to Middle School
The move from elementary school to middle school is the most significant change in K–12 schooling. Much has changed since then, including the size of the campus, the number of students in each class, the accessibility of teachers, the way teachings are executed, student expectations, and the connection with parents.
As a teacher, you want parents to be involved, but some families require advice in stepping back a little bit from the classroom. Nonetheless, you are aware that some pupils falter or fail when the scaffolding provided by a parent or elementary teacher is no longer present.
Is there yet another important change? Students transition from learning the expectations of a single teacher to learning the expectations of several teachers for the first time. They’re hurrying across campus in order to go to their next lesson. All the while, they’re getting ready for PE, putting on deodorant, and worried over their first school dance, all while attempting to figure out how to do well in your course. It’s a challenging chapter.
However, we as middle school instructors sometimes lose sight of how difficult it can be at times, and if we aren’t sensitive to this jarring adjustment, some students can go by the wayside as a result of it. For example, middle school teachers may, in the name of increasing rigour, devote all of our time and energy on subject and academics in the classroom. Despite the fact that it is critical to set expectations, we must also apply engaging ways to entice learners to engage with the subject.
WHY THE SHIFT?
Changing from kindergarten to elementary school, elementary to middle school, and then high school: One could wonder why the K–12 system requires such a large number of transitions at all. I would contend that each stage is developmentally suitable for the brain of the respective age group.
During the elementary school years, for example, the brain is preoccupied with forming connections between memories and what is being taught at the time of the lesson. Students memorise routine knowledge, both intellectually and socially, but nothing is yet routine enough to open up space for more demanding topics to be introduced in the classroom setting. Specifically, according to the American Psychological Association, “as skills become more automatic, the child does not have to think as hard about what he or she is learning or doing, and brain resources are freed up to be used for complex tasks that require increasing amounts of concentration and processing.” As a result, the primary years are about preparing pupils for core academic habits, and teachers interact with students on a regular basis, sometimes even hourly, to assist them in this process.
The number of links between students begins to expand as they progress through middle school, and “inferential thinking becomes increasingly important.” Students’ brains expend energy determining which pieces of information will be preserved in short- or long-term memory, and decision-making abilities begin to emerge. Because of the developmental obstacles that students face as they transition into tweenhood, teachers must be adept at both teaching deeper information and presenting that content in a compelling manner to ensure that students meet the expectations.
A long transition to become a successful middle school student—both neurologically and socially—occurs for many, and becoming more autonomous does not occur automatically on the first day (or even in the first month) of middle school for many.
Advice that teachers can give to students and their families is provided in the next section.
Training students and their families to be more self-sufficient does not imply that the scaffolds should be removed. Quite the opposite: it entails being open and honest about what is to come, as well as providing solutions to assist. As a result, here is some fundamental advice that teachers can provide to both kids and their families.
Students in middle school should read the following:
Make use of your schedule. Every day, keep track of the tasks you receive from all of your teachers. If you don’t, you’ll almost certainly drop the ball.
Make yourself your own best advocate. If you have any questions concerning assignments, you should email the teachers directly.
Make a new definition for yourself. Take advantage of this opportunity to experiment with everything from different clothing choices to different writing techniques. Start thinking about who you want to be and what you want to do.
Learn everything you can about your school counsellor. Make a positive impression on grownups by putting oneself on their radar. They are there to lend a helping hand.
Families should consider the following:
It is no longer necessary to bring stuff to school for the pupil. Contribute to our efforts to instil accountability in students. Please do not bring lunches or work that has been forgotten.
Check their schedule on a daily basis. Make yourself the other bookend in the equation of accountability.
Keep gadgets in a well-lit part of your house. Remove electronic devices from the bedroom. Students should be able to work and charge their gadgets in a communal environment. While you’re at it, make a note of the usernames and passwords that your youngster uses on the internet.
Allow them to take the reins once they have proven they can do it. Once your child has demonstrated that they are capable of greater independence, step back.
ADVICE TEACHERS CAN GIVE STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES
It is also the responsibility of instructors and schools to assist students in this regard:
Actively instruct students on how to study. Don’t make the assumption that students come to you with a good understanding of time management.
Assignments and deadlines should be communicated clearly. Make it easy on families that are trying to assist their children as they grow to be self-sufficient. Assignments should not be kept secret from families by using password-protected agendas. Some pupils are set up for failure as a result of this approach, which does not help them become autonomous learners.
Education should be provided to all stakeholders. Courses, seminars, and workshops on issues such as internet safety for kids and parents, dealing with tweens’ eye-rolling, and other forms of resistance, should be offered to parents and students (for parents).
Begin by implementing a support programme. The WEB Program (Where Everyone Belongs) is a peer-mentoring programme that assists children in making the transition from elementary to secondary school.
Middle school pupils are not simply tiny versions of high school students. Continue to use student engagement tactics even as you raise the bar on your own expectations for your students. Remember, middle school is a harsh jolt for some students. While some may appear already prepared to leap into high school, others may be looking back longingly at recess.