By Carolyn Baldwin
Head of School
One day during lunch last spring, we sat outside on the patio, surrounded by tables of laughing Middle School students happily sharing French fries. Other students were darting across the lawn, throwing footballs to each other.
I love the boundless energy of Middle School students. During that lunch-table conversation, we laughed that Middle School students are “always running” even if they aren’t late to class.
Too often, articles and media reports focus on the negative. Parents and neighbors shake their heads in confusion when Middle School students act in ways we don’t expect (or can’t control). Locally, we lament the poor Department of Education reports about middle schools. Blockbuster novelist James Patterson even co-authored a tongue-in-cheek book titled “Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life.”
There is good news for all of us. Current research shows that early adolescents (ages 10-14) go through tremendous brain growth! They are learning to move from concrete to abstract thinking, and they are developing a wide range of new skills.
This can be a challenging time for many “tweens” and teens (and the adults who love them), but I have seen many students discover their true passions and interests during their Middle School years.
Scanning articles and blogs about adolescents and brain research has reminded me of so many things that I want to share with Middle School parents and teachers:
- We must encourage Middle School students to try new things (sports, arts, anything). At this age, they have great capacity to develop proficiency.
- These students can be highly emotional. I have sometimes heard parents use the H word (“hormonal”). They feel things deeply. They develop strong personal relationships, and they develop strong passions for projects or hobbies.
- When children are tiny, their brains develop and adapt quickly. The same is true during this period of adolescence. This is an amazing time for students.
- While students may act as if they are independent, they still crave affection, discipline, and adult support. Don’t push Middle School students too fast into the grown-up world.
As someone who always has enjoyed working with Middle School students, I’m glad the school year has started again. Now I can return to the lunch table on the patio, and start observing all the laughter, and the running, and the joy, and the French fry sharing.