For this month's article, as a continuation of the work I did with our elementary student leaders last month, I met with the Student Government leadership and Junior Key Club Leadership of Jennie F. Snapp Middle School. I posed the same question: since these students are nearing the end of their middle school years, I asked them to give advice for future middle school students - in essence, what is the secret to success in middle school?
In terms of academic achievement, all agreed that success lay in doing your homework, asking for help if you didn't understand something, always trying your best, paying attention/focusing/listening, persevering when you don't get something the first time, and speaking up - volunteering to participate and taking advantage of opportunities whenever possible. This was literally the same advice that our elementary student leaders gave.
However, the advice changed to also include: go to school on the Orientation Day at the beginning of the school year. This way, you can practice your schedule, open your locker, and plan for what materials you will need to have for each class. They stressed that it's important NOT TO BE LATE TO CLASS. So, the organization of books, notebooks, and other school supplies is really, really important!
Ironically, they also had advice - as our elementary student leaders did - for parents to help their children do the best in school: have a bedtime so that the children can get enough sleep; you can't learn when you're tired. They also said it's helpful for parents to check homework and to help children review - things like spelling and math facts. Finally, they told me that it's the parents' responsibility to provide "structure" (a schedule at home) so that the children do well.
But, they also took the advice to parents one step further: to be very aware and limit, if necessary, your child's access to electronic media (Facebook, texting, Twitter, IPod music, computer gaming, etc.) They said that it was VERY EASY to lose vast amounts of time in this way, and that it could be the major distraction that keeps one from doing well academically. They told me to tell parents that IT'S OK to set limits on the use of these. Time management, they believed, was the biggest factor to success at JFS. (But, they also want us to realize that the electronic media - such as using Skype to study as a team, was VERY HELPFUL!)
All agreed, like their elementary counterparts, that it was important to make new friends in middle school. By having friends, it would smooth "the ups and downs". However, they suggested that one must choose friends wisely and NOT try to be something you're not just to get someone to be your friend. They also stressed the importance of respecting others, forming and maintaining a good reputation, understanding the importance of teamwork, having a good attitude, and remembering that you're a role model for the younger children at home and in our community.
Beyond this advice, they urge new middle school students to get involved in clubs and/or sports, and to make time to volunteer. In addition to being a great way to make new friends, they advised that it's important to recognize you will need these accomplishments for applying to colleges, jobs, and to complete your resume!
All were looking forward to high school, and had already begun to formulate plans: setting goals for high school, college and career; remembering that if you challenge yourself to do something new or out of your "comfort zone", that you have a great sense of accomplishment after you've done it; staying out of the drama and do not let others put you down; and to remember to persevere - never, ever, ever quit or give up!
It was truly my pleasure to meet with these students to hear their perspectives. It is clear that between home, school, and community that our students are developing the character, skills, and determination to succeed and thrive as they grow. Go Tigers!
Special thanks to the following students at JFS for meeting with me and providing input for this newsletter: