Next week the daughter of one of my dearest heart friends is starting Middle School. I have had the privilege of walking along the road with my friend during infertility, the choice to adopt and finally the wonderful day when her beautiful China Doll came home forever. And now that beautiful, amazing girl is at this very pivotal point in the road and since I have spent 33 years in middle school I thought I could help so I wrote her a little note to give her some guidance. I received a text from her Mom this week telling me that my card and letter came on what was a very middle-schooly-day…God’s timing is always perfect. So I thought maybe I would share these same thoughts with others who might have students entering these challenging years as well.
What you should know about Middle School from a teacher’s perspective.
- It’s awkward. Everyone is awkward in middle school, everyone has awkward moments and everyone is trying to avoid being awkward, but being awkward is normal when your body is constantly changing from child to adult. Awkward is normal when you have little kid feelings and grown up feelings at the same time. Awkward is normal when you want to be brave but feel afraid. There is a lot going on in this life transition so awkward is going to be normal. Embrace it because everyone experiences it in this stage of development. And when someone else is having an awkward moment encourage them because you will want someone to do that for you.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things, even if the outcome is different that you thought it would be. This is the time in life to try out for things at school that maybe you have never done before like sports, music, clubs or other school organizations. It is the time to take on leadership roles where they are offered and see what you can do in that arena. It is the time to deepen your faith by getting involved in something new in your youth group like a mission’s trip, or worship team. This will help you develop the talents and abilities that you already know about and may help you find new ones. There be will success and there will be opportunities to grow through missteps and that is ok that is part of learning about your self during this time.
- Be Kind. In middle school, the students who are most often respected and admired are the ones that are kind to others, the kids who make other kids feel wanted and apart of the group. It is important to have your own trusted circle of friends that you can rely on but offering kindness to everyone else is a good way to grow true connection with others. Kindness heals the nervous anxiety every middle schooler feels, someone must be first to show it. Be First!
- Laugh Often. Don’t take yourself too seriously or situations that you cannot control. It is easy with all the emotions surging through your changing body to see everything seriously or as the most awful or as the most embarrassing or the most horrible…but really it just isn’t. Emotions are good guides that help us understand what is happening in relationships but they tend to be very exaggerated during this season in life.Tears are necessary but so is laughter.
- Keep talking to your parents. The biggest mistake middle schoolers make is they quit having conversations with their parents about important things for all kinds of reasons. But trust me your parents can handle anything you need to tell them and it is their desire to help you. I have sat in many meetings where a kid was afraid to tell their parents something but when they finally did it made all the difference. Parents may freak out initially but in the end, they always do the right thing and really your well-being is everything to them. EVERYTHING!
- Trust your Spidey Sense. Your Spidey sense is your intuition, God gave you intuition to protect and guide you and you should never ignore it. When you get goosebumps or your stomach churns pay attention to that your body is trying to get your attention so you will pay attention to your intuition. When someone or something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. So, take your time, talk to your parents or a trusted adult and don’t follow the crowd. Time often reveals the truth about people and circumstances.
- Substances. There is no middle school campus that doesn’t have marijuana(weed) or other types of substances on it, I am sorry but that is just the truth. You will be approached at some point in your time at school and the best strategy for handling that correctly will be to decide how you will respond before it happens. Substance experimentation can steal from your life and create habits that are very difficult to break. Once you try something you can never go back to before you tried it. Life is intoxicating enough it doesn’t need to be enhanced by substances that have the potential to harm you.
- Don’t let insecurity interfere with your individuality. Everyone who has ever attended middle school has had to deal with insecurity…EVERYONE! And often the choice is to give into it and just try to be like everyone else, do what everyone else is doing, dress like everyone else, and act like everyone else. There is nothing wrong with fitting in to a point it is necessary to blend in with others but it is never good to lose yourself for the sake of being accepted. This is a time in life when you are truly trying to find out who you are and if you let insecurity guide your decisions, it will keep you from truly seeing your individuality. Only you can be you!
- Own your mistakes. A lot of middle schoolers play the blame game, never taking responsibility for their behavior when they make wrong choices, are disrespectful in their words or tone or choose selfishness. These are common issues for middle schoolers because they are experimenting with becoming an adult and there are a lot of missteps along the way but the way to grow through those mistakes is to just own your stuff. The best way is to simply acknowledge the mistake, apologize and make it right. Arguing about it, lying about it or blaming others just prolongs the circumstance. Own your stuff and learn from it, this is the best and easiest way forward.
- Embrace this season. When you are in it and on a bad day middle school can feel like forever but it isn’t really. It is a short transitional season filled with lots of new and sometimes scary stuff but it is also filled with wonder, discovery and delight. Enjoy it, lean into it and learn all you can. And most importantly have fun…lots of fun…innocent no regrets fun.