While our students generally worry most about finding their way around and fitting in, the greater challenge in the long run is academic performance. It is not uncommon for grades to drop when students start middle school. Besides raging hormones and significant change, they are now dealing with more difficult classes, more teachers, more homework, and less nurturing.
In elementary school, students are with the same teacher most of the day. Close bonds are created between the teacher and her students. Middle and high school teachers don’t care any less than their elementary counterparts; they just have 5 times as many students to care about. They view these students as young adults, and they know that a large part of their job is to create independent learners who need to take charge of their assignments, projects, and behavior with less hand holding and day-to-day supervision.
Furthermore, the academic content is more rigorous and it is delivered by 5-6 different teachers with different styles, different philosophies, and different expectations. Students have to learn how to succeed in multiple classrooms instead of one with less guidance and interaction from their teachers.
Here are some things you can do to help.
•Meet with the teachers early in the school year to let them know you are committed and will work with them to help your student succeed. Make sure they have work and home phone numbers and email addresses where you can be reached. •Help your student set up consistent study times that allow enough time to complete homework and get a little ahead. •Early in the year, monitor your child’s progress vigilantly. Use the school’s web site to track homework and grades. See how much time your student is taking to complete assignments and if you sense a struggle, get in touch with the teacher immediately. •Don’t over-react to grades. A drop early in the year is not uncommon. Make it clear that you want to see good grades, and find out what it’s going to take to get there, and then provide the tools and support to accomplish your goals. •You can expect homework every day in most subjects. Do NOT believe your teenager when he says he finished his work in school or he had no assignments. THERE IS ALWAYS HOMEWORK! If you’re not seeing it, contact the teachers. •Get the names, numbers, and email addresses for at least 2 classmates and 2 parents. No matter what your student tells you, middle school is NOT the time to be less involved. Stay in there! Volunteer, attend orientations, meetings, conferences. Join the PTA/PTO. •Help your student learn to ask for help.
Most teachers are committed to the success of their students. They are often available before and after school. They are amazingly lenient about make up work, test re-takes, and even extra credit. They love their subject and believe that education is the key to successful adults and society. They will do anything to help their students. However, your student has to seek that help; generally, the middle and high school teachers do not “chase down” students. But they are there when the student comes to them.