Things Learned—or Affirmed—as a Middle School Mom

Confessions of a former middle school principal.

By: Kate M. Cassada

As a life-long middle school advocate, I have always known and valued my students as their teacher and school leader, but recently I became a middle school mom. As a parent, many of my beliefs about doing what is right for middle school children have been affirmed, and I have gained wisdom by seeing the situation from a parent's perspectives. Here are some of the lessons learned or affirmed by a middle school mom.

  • Bless teachers who let a middle school child snack in third block.
  • Middle schoolers would never survive as carrier pigeons. Parents need real communication.
  • Teaming matters. Significantly. Its absence is detrimental to students and to teachers.
  • Check the homework balance—eight classes are a lot.
  • Wise teachers of advanced classes realize that while the content is high school mature, the learners are not.
  • He can analyze an assignment at length, be energized by it, complete it, walk into your classroom, and still forget to submit it to you. Gah! Teacher forgiveness is a welcome gift.
  • Suddenly, study hall sounds like a great idea.
  • School-wide behavioral and academic expectations feed a whole-school culture.
  • Young adolescents seriously need outdoor activity, sun, and fresh air.
  • Middle schoolers really do need to connect with at least one teacher. It's not just rhetoric. And parents are grateful when they recognize that a teacher knows and likes their child.
  • Our children are learning how not to be the bully or the bullied. Socially, it's a tightrope walk for kids every day. Talk to them about the higher road and keep a keen eye on things.
  • Middle schoolers may appear silly and unruffled at school, but heartbreaking stress lies right under the surface.
  • It is remarkably difficult to transition from the "physical parent" (keep them safe, fed, and clean) to the "emotional parent."
  • Talk less—listen more.
  • Young adolescents can achieve their fun, crazy dreams.
  • Channel the funny and punny sense of humor, but please don't squash it. The latest: "I'd tell you a chemistry joke, but I wouldn't get a reaction."

Kate M. Cassada is assistant professor of education and assistant chair of graduate education for educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Published in AMLE Magazine, October 2016.

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