Middle school is commonly known as an incredibly challenging time in the lives of young people. This is largely because of the prevalence of interpersonal conflict and an inability to know how to navigate it. Throughout my years as a middle school teacher and administrator, I've encountered more of these types of issues than I can count. One type of interpersonal conflict, bullying, is certainly a major issue in middle school, but in my opinion, true bullying is the least complicated type of middle school interpersonal conflict that occurs. Most conflicts that I have dealt with are incredibly complex, as they involve numerous layers of action, interpretation and assumption, perspective, and communication. It is so important for parents of middle school students to be aware of the complexities of the middle school social structure that often gives way to interpersonal conflict.
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I recently asked my freshman English students, “If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your middle school self that you now know?” I challenged them to reflect on this question and write about it, drawing from their own experience to offer advice to current middle schoolers and parents. Their responses were honest and thoughtful.
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Followers of Jesus are called to radical non-conformity to the culture around us. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”