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The Pressures of Middle School
Q: I'm becoming very concerned about my 11-year-old's inability to cope with the pressures of middle school. While in elementary he was an A/B student, and now in middle school he struggles to keep up. The added responsibility is making him shut down and completely reject school. I know he is capable, but he refuses to even try. Homework, projects, and studying are a nightmare for all of us. We have always been very close, but I can't even reach him anymore. I've talked to the counselor at school, but he wasn't much help. He pretty much wrote it off as typical middle-school behavior. What's your advice?
A: The move to middle school can be tough even for the best of students. Their educational environment has changed dramatically. Middle schools are larger, students have more teachers, their relationships with teachers are less personal, and they are expected to take far more responsibility for their schoolwork. Students also face changing classes, operating lockers, dealing with older students, and handling new grading standards and procedures. At the same time, they are going through the physical and emotional changes of puberty and striving to become more independent.
The first few weeks of middle school can be overwhelming for children. Your son's behavior, as the counselor says, is fairly typical. You may feel better about all the changes in the relationship with your son if you talk to the parents of his friends and learn how they and their children are handling the transition from elementary school to middle school.
While most children adjust to middle school within a few months, there are things that parents can do to ease the process:
- Be supportive of your son and listen to what he has to say.
- Provide a quiet place for homework.
- Choose with him a time for homework. And insist that he use this time before any TV, video, or computer time. If he says that he has no homework, he can read during the homework time.
- Be sure he is equipped with a binder or some kind of folder system to organize the work from his different classes.
- Encourage him to use an assignment pad and calendar to organize his work.
- Support his participation in extracurricular activities.
- Make his friends welcome in your home.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.