From which outfit to wear, to meeting new teachers, a lot can weigh on the minds of sixth-graders and their parents as middle school begins.
But Canyons District Instructional Coach Alison Keddington has these words of comfort for those taking the plunge: “Middle school is not like a high dive into a deep end, sink or swim. It’s not that. Think of it more like a zero-entry pool where they really do get to kind of tiptoe in.”
From their emphasis on team teaching to the subject-matter experts available at each grade level, middle schools are designed to support students in making that sometimes awkward transition from childhood to early adolescence. Schools make supports available year round, starting with back-to-school nights in the fall and orientations for incoming sixth grade students and their families.
“Sixth grade is truly like one of the best years for these kids. And if we can keep it a positive experience and keep them excited about school, it just puts them on the right foot,” said Keddington, speaking from experience as a teacher and instructional coach. “Sixth graders are my jam.”
In a recent interview with Connect Canyons podcast host Stephanie Christensen, Keddington addressed common parental concerns, covering such topics as teacher grading techniques, how to monitor students’ progress and set up students up for success that first day of school.
Her first piece of advice was to remember that in middle school, students have multiple teachers and those teachers work as a team to help student thrive and excel. If parents are worried about something, social or academic, don’t just email one teacher, Keddington says, email the whole team.
“All four of those teachers can work together and identify an intervention that’s going to work for that kid and then be able to be consistent all day long about it,” Keddington said.
Transitioning to middle school can be tough, but it doesn’t haven’t to be. Understanding that children mature at different paces and have different learning styes, Keddington said, “We’re holding their hands, we’re leading [them] to deeper water. We are there to support them throughout this pivotal time in their learning and development.”
Tips to prepare for middle school:
- Start your day with an earlier wakeup to get them used to an early start.
- Make sure they have time to read. Keddington said the “Harry Potter” and “Percy Jackson” series are big hits at this age.
Dos and Don’ts:
- Stress about grades – Focus on a goal of 100 percent work completion to help your student learn responsibility.
- Keep kids out of school if they don’t have to be. Keddington says, “Missing one day of middle school is like missing a week of elementary school.”
- Use Skyward to help your child with their workload, not to overthink grades.
- Monitor social media – if your student participates in social media, monitor those platforms to help navigate social norms and avoid bullying.