Ready or Not: Middle School is Near


As someone who taught middle school, I can tell you…middle schoolers are strange creatures. They look like mini adults, but act like cats: cute and cuddly while also madly emotional and vindictive. 

Every middle school child is like a species of their own. They may be a part of a genus, a family of human type creatures, but their metamorphosis into real human kind is not yet complete, and no middle schooler will travel the same path to their journey to this brave new world.


You have already seen the signs, I am sure. The cute kid you knew is now rolling their eyes at you more and more. You see social struggles beyond sharing a swing at the playground continue to grow more complicated. They can carry on mature conversations and ask philosophical questions, yet cry randomly. Yes, middle school is near. 

So, how can you prepare for the un-prepareable? It seems counterproductive that I am even writing this because it seems impossible, but I **think** I have a few ideas to help those of you saying goodbye to the child that walked the intermediate or elementary halls, as you accompany them to the world of middle school. 

First understand this: middle school is not the same as it was when you were a kid, or even as it was 10 years ago. Technology has reshaped the social and academic landscape into a world almost unrecognizable to what we knew as kids. My advice is simple, but NOT easy to follow. As a teacher, I can tell you, parents who do the following things will on average have a more socially and emotionally balanced, mature child. Not a perfect child, hello it is still middle school. They will still be smelly, awkward, emotional, and annoying, BUT they may have a less difficult time getting through the coming years.

1.) Technology – LIMIT IT.  Seriously. This is hard. Get rid of the smartphone, transition to flip phones. Ditch the unfettered access to iPads. And if they say, “But I need it for school!” No, no they don’t. It is a pain for teachers, but we do have access to technology to provide for them. I would rather be only slightly annoyed that I have to find a Chromebook for a kid whose parents won’t let them have a phone than to be always annoyed with the kid who won’t get off their phone in class, WHILE I AM TEACHING. If your kid already has a phone or smart watch, this is hard. This is REALLY HARD. Spend the summer getting used to this life, and trust me: it pays off. Your kid will be forced to be more focused and more present in their surroundings. The number one reason kids cannot pay attention in class is not ADD, not ADHD, not learning disabilities, not that they did not get enough sleep; rather it is because they are so addicted to the dopamine rush phones give them, addicted to instant gratification, addicted to social media, etc., etc. (for real, I can keep going, and yes, I am preaching to the choir, I worship my phone too). Guys, for reference, even Steve Jobs limited technology for his own kids, read more here. And if you need even more persuasion, the average age a kid is exposed to porn is age 12, and yes, it is via cell phone (read more here).

2.) Let Them Fail- Balancing their new schedules, more teachers than they have ever had, carrying supplies with them from room to room, all the things…it is hard. No doubt. Support them, offer solutions, but do not fight their battles and let them fail. Suffering in small ways during formative years is a good thing. Their grades may be lower than ever, they may not be able to be in all the clubs and sports as easily as before, but THIS is the time to learn, this is the time to suffer because they have your support to get through it. They do not need someone to fight their battles and get a grade changes, but someone to help them work through the big feelings of failing, messing up, forgetting, being late, arguing with a friend, hating a teacher, etc. 

RELATED READING: “Dear Parents,” An Email from Your Child’s Teacher

3.) Know Their Friends- If you do not already know who your kids hang out with, make that change now. If they meet new friends at their middle school, make it a priority to know them, and their parents. Be the annoying parent who hovers over the group when they are in your house. Be the annoying parent who doesn’t let them step foot into a friend’s house unless you know them very, very well. The more parents get on board with this, and the more parents unite against allowing smart phone use in middle school, the better chance you all have of surviving these years. Proximity is a powerful tool. Teachers would love to sit at their desk while their students work so they can catch up on emails and grade, NOPE. No such luxury; we know we must walk the aisles, peek at their papers, ask questions as we walk through, etc. This is essential. They look like mini adults, so it is easy to want to let them be. Plus, hello, we are all tired (parents and teachers) and it is easy to assume our innocent baby is not doing anything we would not allow…think again. Think back to your middle school years. Did you ever do anything you shouldn’t have done all on your own, or was it usually in a group setting or in some way influenced by a peer? That part has not changed about middle school! Hover. Ask questions. Provide no privacy. It is hard work, it is annoying work, but trust me! It will pay off. They look more adult-like than ever, but I am sure you can see they are on emotional roller coasters and logical thinking is not in their wheelhouse yet. 

4.) Require Deodorant– For real. Get the good stuff. Do a smell check each day and pack some in their backpack for after gym class. 

Well, ready or not….Middle School is near. You may not be ready, but who is? You got this.