While learning about complex math, foreign language and how to take a bus to school, middle schoolers also are refining the soft skills that will help them in school and in everyday life.
“Middle school is the best time to lay soft skills foundations,” said Sarah Fraser, founder of Academic Coaching DC. “Giving them a strong foundation now helps them build up a better sense of self before high school and sets them up to thrive inside and outside the classroom,” Fraser said.
“Thinking critically means reflecting and evaluating ourselves and our views of the world. To do this requires an openness to acknowledge that our views could be partial or incomplete, to genuinely step outside of our own beliefs or perspectives,” said Kelsey Komorowski, chief skill builder and founder of Komo, an online learning platform.
“Middle school is a great time to begin building this skill because this is when kids are starting to form their sense of self. If they understand the value in questioning the information on their phones or that their friends’ opinions don’t need to be their opinions, then they can start to grow into an authentic version of themselves,”
“Middle school involves tough issues,” said educator Karen Gross, author of “Trauma Doesn’t Stop at the School Door.” Middle schoolers are struggling with growth spurts, and engagement between the sexes is often fraught with teasing.
“It is for these reasons that middle schoolers can and should develop empathy, caring about others and appreciating the consequences of their acts,” Gross said.
Encourage philanthropic activities such as volunteering, visiting or reading to senior citizens, or making gifts for those in need.
“This shows the tweeners they are developing,” Gross said.
“At this point, students should be able to advocate for themselves when it comes to their progress in class, their grade and to explain their thinking. It would be hard for middle schoolers to get their point across if they were constantly getting upset and unable to communicate effectively,” said Annette Estrada, fourth/fifth grade classroom teacher at LUCHA Elementary in San Jose, California.
Just because a student reads an assignment doesn’t mean they understand it.
“Metacognition is thinking about how you are thinking,” Fraser said. Using metacognition a student can understand how a reading or homework assignment fits within the subject as a whole.
“This is a deeply important skill, and middle school is the best time to start building it. Parents can work on this through asking for their student’s understanding of their homework at the beginning of middle school, backing out of the process as it becomes clear their student is assessing their understanding independently,” Fraser said.
“Middle school is the best time to learn how to effectively manage a course load,” Komorowski said. “Once students understand what time management looks like in practice and how it makes their lives easier, it becomes a part of their everyday life. High school has a more demanding course load, so middle school is the perfect time to learn how to properly manage and complete their work.”
Middle schoolers have to learn that mistakes are part of life and learn from them.
“Failures are the road to success; without failure it would be difficult to learn the many angles of solving a problem,” said Estrada.
—Melissa Erickson | More Content Now