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Navigating Middle School

As children transition from elementary school to middle school, they may find themselves struggling with some of the differences that middle school brings. Below are some challenges that students, educators, and parents may come across, and some things each of them can do to enhance learning. From an interview with Marla Thompson.



Middle school students have many things change all at once. In addition to physical and emotional changes, the structure of school changes for most students as they enter middle school. Instead of one teacher, they now have several class periods daily. This can create confusion as students sometimes struggle to understand what each teacher expects.

Coupled with this new school environment is the middle school child himself: often children get embarrassed very easily and don’t always want to ask for help. What their peers think of them is very important at this age, and students will often remain quiet rather than ask for help.

What students can do:

Get a study buddy. Find a friend in class who they can call or text to get help on assignments.

Ask for help. If a child doesn’t understand, it is imperative that they ask for help sooner than later. Reach out to teachers in person or by email to let teachers know when the material is difficult. Ask parents for help at home.



Teachers in middle school often see over 100 students a day—sometimes 200 or more! Because they don’t have as much one on one time with students as elementary school teachers, they may not know that a child is struggling.

One of teachers main jobs, beyond just teaching the material, is teaching responsibility. That means that teachers need to stay firm on class policies and make sure there are set consequences when a child fails to complete an assignment for example.

What teachers can do:

Teach responsibility with love and compassion. When students are struggling, teachers can reach out and see that they can do to help.

As soon as teachers see a problem, they can be proactive in working with the student to ensure that the student doesn’t get further and further behind.



Middle school students may talk to their parents less at this age. This, combined with the fact that their student has many teachers through out the day, can make it hard for a parent to feel connected to what is going on at school.

What parents can do:

Use the resources available. Many school have parent portals where parents can check the assignments. Get connected with the teachers, and reach out when your child-or you!- don’t understand the assignment.

Allow your child to take responsibility for his own schoolwork. Be there to support, but recognize that it is his responsibility.

Middle school presents many unique challenges and so many opportunities for growth. As students, educators and parents work together, students will learn and thrive in their education.

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