5 Tips to Thrive in Middle School

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From the desk of Tammy Hayes, Middle School Principal:

Meet Jack. He is the newest addition to the Hayes’ household.  His arrival has been more than an adjustment for all of us, namely Me!  I came home 6 weeks ago to find my family hovering over a little innocent-looking Great Dane! That’s right, a pack dog –smack dab in the MIDDLE of my pack wooing their hearts and minds away from common sense, logic, and rational thought right into the dominance of those baby blues.  Well, my husband, being the ordered man he is, went into training mode right away!  Since then, I’ve learned a lot about packs and pack dogs, and some things just ring too close to the realities of teaching middle school students. So, I want to share my top 5 list with you of similarities and lessons gained! And remind you that I am in the Middle of it every day, right alongside you, trying to figure it out and enjoy it all at the same time!

#5New to the pack=Celebrated one moment-Reprimanded the next!

This little guy is just plain cute…until he’s not! I feel so sorry for him when he goes from adoration to reprimand in 10 seconds! His look of hurt and rejection is almost too much, but the requirement of using the yard instead of the carpet-well, that’s a must, so we TRAIN on!

Lesson: Middle school students may feel loved one minute and rejected the next! They must be constantly both affirmed and redirected. Sometimes this combo is very confusing to them, but necessary for their own good and maturity.

#4-Schedule is Everything=”not allowed to feed whenever we feel like it, and can’t forget to take him out to the yard!” His success is dependent on our ability to create and maintain a schedule on his behalf! Our accomplishment in doing these two things is his accomplishment in being a welcome member of our community! If we don’t protect him in this way, he will be unhealthy, unpredictable, and unhappy.

Lesson: Middle school students need structure. It’s in their best interest in regards to homework, enough rest, and age-appropriate social interactions to put structures in place that restrict and allow on their behalf until they are mature enough to do so on their own.

#3Patience is required every day! Just because he has it one day, doesn’t mean it’s there the next= he is “in process” and requires lots of patience, help and re-teaching. How many times do we as parents say to our teens, “Haven’t I told you this? You already know this! & What were you thinking?” Truth is…they might have been thinking, but it was about something completely different than what you wanted.

Lesson:  Middle school students need grace and help.   Frustration +Disappointment= Defeat!  I’m reminded that by the extension of grace and a helping hand, they are encouraged and lifted up rather than defeated.

#2-They are not as mature as they look! It is amazing how quickly a Great Dane actually grows. It has been very reminiscent of both my boys whose legs turned into tree trunks overnight! However, when they still act childish, why am I dismayed?

Lesson:  Middle school students need us to trust their heart. It’s in the right place even when their actions aren’t!  When Jack jumps into our lap full force, it’s received a bit differently at 25 lbs. than just weeks ago at 6 lbs. The speed at which new body growth occurred didn’t lend me enough time to make the emotional leap and neither did it give my teenager a warning either.

#1-Encouragement is intrinsic not extrinsic. Danes actually train quicker to intrinsic motivation of pleasing their master, rather than the hope of earning a dog biscuit.  Likewise, they become more predictable and pleasant to strangers when they receive their instructor’s commands of their own choosing rather than because of correction.  Truth is- all Jack ever really wants is time with our family, namely my husband who has spent the most time with him loving and training him.

Lesson: Middle school students value time spent with you more than any other reward. Rather than promising them the moon, or threatening to take something away, just go for a walk, sit and talk with them at the dinner table, or tuck them in at night. These simple rewards are the most desired and prove to have the biggest results in having a happy Middle Schooler!

Tammy Hayes is the Middle School Principal at The Brook Hill School. You can find out more about her here: https://www.brookhill.org/faculty/thayes/?from_faculty_listing=1&l=&u=

You can find out more about our school here: https://www.brookhill.org/