Navigating Your Child's Education: Grades 6-8

3 min read

Two Ways to Help Your Middle School Student Own Their Education

Jul 19, 2019 11:30 AM

Transitioning from elementary school to middle school can be difficult for young students. The middle school years are marked with significant milestones and changes.

Relationships change as new friend groups develop, students are expected to engage more with teachers, and there is a relational angst often associated with the tween years. Middle school students’ bodies and brains are growing and maturing as puberty begins. Academics become more challenging as students learn to change classes, interact with multiple teachers, and manage increasing workloads.

As a middle school principal, one of the most important transitions that I see in my students is the need to develop increasing responsibility in these formative years. This is a crucial time in which students must begin to develop some autonomy and take ownership of their education in order to flourish in their high school years and beyond.

I often share with parents an analogy to illustrate the progression of student development and parental involvement…

In the elementary years, parents hold the hands of their children as they begin their formal education. School-aged children aren’t ready to think about their education outside of participating in classroom activities. It’s crucial for parents of elementary schoolers to read with their children, practice spelling words, remind students to complete homework and assist when needed, and communicate regularly with teachers about their child. In short, parents of elementary students carry the weight of ensuring their child’s academic success.

In the middle school years, there is a shift in the dynamic of parent involvement. Parents no longer hold both of their child’s hands. Instead, they proverbially let go of one hand so that trusted teachers, coaches, and school administrators can begin to help students navigate their own education and provide accountability to students for growth. Rather than full dependence on parents as in elementary school, the middle school years are the time to begin a sort of weaning from that full dependence. This “weaning process” is just as much for parents as it is for the students, and is more challenging for some than others.

Middle school students should gradually take on more responsibility. This may look a little different for each student, but all students can implement two practical skills to grow in responsibility:

  • Keep a calendar – Learning to manage time is essential to success as an adult. One small way for students to begin to learn this skill is by keeping a calendar. Allowing students to choose their own calendar (look, style, format) and begin to jot down important assignments, due dates and deadlines is a great way for them to start to “own” their education. It may be wise for parents to regularly check in with students, and view and discuss important upcoming assignments and events.
  • Interact with teachers directly – while parent-teacher communication is irreplaceable and paramount to student success, students must also learn to interact directly with teachers both inside and outside the classroom. Talking to adults, especially those in authority, can be intimidating for young students. Yet beginning to address teachers directly helps students feel connected to their work and deepens trust. If they have a question about an assignment or a grade, or if a particular classroom-related issue arises, middle school students, with the guidance of parents, need to learn to send their teachers an email or talk to them outside of class to address issues. Including your middle school student in parent-teacher conferences can also be a great way to facilitate communication and allow students to take ownership of their learning.

Honing these two practical skills will take time. In the beginning, some students may struggle to remember to write things in their calendars and maintain it. It might also feel difficult to interact directly with a teacher. Challenge in life has a way of making us feel uncomfortable. But it is in that place of feeling uncomfortable through challenge that causes us to grow and mature. I often tell my students to “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” in the sense that growth and maturity are often borne out of facing challenges.

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These are two seemingly small, practical ways that middle schoolers can increase in responsibility, yet the long-term effects can be significant. The better these skills are implemented in the early years, the more likely they are to have success as they move into high school and beyond. When students learn to manage their time and interact with teachers directly in middle school, they are far better prepared to face bigger challenges later on. Conversely, students that have never adequately developed responsibility and independence may struggle to succeed, as they grow older because they have not been equipped to navigate challenges.

Each student’s journey is unique, and we as parents know our children best. God gives us grace and wisdom to raise our children in the way that they should go. This includes the process of helping our students develop responsibility, ownership, and independence.






Topics: Middle School

Tammi Evans
Written by Tammi Evans

With seven years of teaching experience prior, Tammi served as principal at Worthington Christian Middle School for six years. She and her husband Bill have four young adult children. Tammi is passionate about helping students develop lifestyles based on God's design and helping students see challenge as opportunity for growth. For fun, Tammi can be found running in local parks, spending time with her family, gardening or reading a good book.