Kids Who Get It

By Susan Palmer, Head of Middle School

Last week at the Sixth to Seventh Grade Transition Night, a panel of eighth graders shared their experiences in seventh grade with a room packed with current sixth grade parents. These parents were in attendance to learn about all of the changes ahead for their students in seventh grade: elective choices, athletics, busy social lives, and more are all on the horizon for students who transition from sixth to seventh grade. In addition, the seventh grade curriculum offers a ramp up of expectations and increased academic challenge. Teachers expect students to think critically and analyze at a deeper level than in past years. They will be asked to manage their time, their materials, and their responsibilities. We will ask them to self-assess so that they can see where they need to shore up and where they are strong. In other words, there is a lot going on in seventh grade.

The panel of eighth graders, having left seventh grade behind nearly a year ago, characterized the experience as manageable, surprising, and fun. They talked about asking teachers for help in planning out projects, doing homework on the team bus to an away game, and getting to know the older eighth graders in elective classes and on sports teams. They talked about trying something new (“I never knew a track was so big!”) and receiving so much gratification from competing for their school. They shared their love of playing in the band and of the eighth grade campout. They talked about the increased number of choices in every area of school life and how to use parents and teachers to help make those choices wise ones.

The best was saved for last, however, when the students offered advice to the parents. From “Don’t stress out because then we’ll stress out” to “Help us make a plan when there is a lot going on,” these students were candid and genuine in their desire to partner with their parents to navigate the final two years of Middle School.

The parents in the audience were in awe, hoping, as one parent said, that their own children could morph into such articulate, mature beings over the course of the next two years. Frankly, those of us who work with Middle School students every day were in awe as well. These eight students demonstrated that the challenges we offer our students are completely and totally age-appropriate and that they can tackle challenging tasks with our encouragement and coaching. They take great pride in reflecting on how far they have come. They have every reason to expect success in Upper School. Their Middle School experiences have readied them for the next step, and those of us they leave behind will be applauding from the sidelines.