Date of Award
Dr. Rachel Pool
Professor Sue Shults
Professor Jennifer Burkett Pittman
For some, the thought of middle school brings back happy memories of JV sports, fine arts competitions, and lunch with friends. For others, thoughts of homework struggles, drama, and other adolescent woes come to mind. Whatever the words "middle school" bring back, it can be agreed by all that middle school is a time of change: biological changes, mental changes, and environmental changes. Amidst all of that, a middle school student's academic world changes as well. Grades K-2 were new and exciting adventures. In grades 3-5, most students settled into a comfortable academic routine. Suddenly they enter grades 6-8 and while there are new adventures, not many students would call them exciting. In fact, they would probably call them overwhelming. I know I did.
In order to fully explain the significance and intent behind what I am writing, I feel as though I should offer a brief background explanation of my middle school experience. Until 6th grade, I was able to tread water, so to speak. Once I journeyed into 6th grade, I began to sink fast. Most major events of my middle school career occurred in the 6th grade, both years of 6th grade. I switched to a private college-preparatory school mid-way through the year, effectively plopping me into the dreaded role of "new kid." Just when I thought I had finally outgrown such status, I learned that I was to repeat the 6th grade earning me the moniker once again. I was socially awkward-more than your average pre-teen. I always managed to get myself involved with the drama cliques, which did absolutely nothing for my self-esteem and perceived social status (as much social status as one has as an 11-year-old). At this time, I also learned that I showed signs of Dysgraphia, a learning disability in the brain that causes me to struggle with reading comprehension and writing skills. At this age, all I saw was yet another label added to my name. Lastly, the typical pre-teen changes were beginning to affect me as well. This, of course, meant that my hormones soaring which, in tum, meant that I could cry or scream at the drop of a hat. On top of all of those struggles, I was expected to exceed in my academics.
In this sink-or-swim moment, I felt like I was sinking. I was, but not in the way that I thought. Looking back, it is clear that there were many moments where my parents, teachers, and tutor all attempted to correct me and instruct me, but I would not receive it, not for lack of caring, but because I did not understand that it all mattered. Because of my attitude, those that supported me agreed to have me placed in a new class that my school was offering: Study Skills. This class was created for students, like me, who needed specific instruction in organization skills and time-management. At first, this class was something I was forced to be in; therefore, it was something I didn't like. By the end of the semester, I realized that I had enjoyed my time in that class. I learned about something that I could be good at, that would make my life easier, and that I had total control over: three elements that will make any middle schooler interested.
As I got older, I realized that I had developed a passion for helping students like me with these skills as well. We have often heard the phrase "give a man fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." In a sense the same can be said about middle school students: give them guidance, and they do it once; teach them how to do it, and they can apply it for a lifetime. Middle school life can be summed up in four words: change, responsibility, motivation, and structure. Students either have these things or they don't. One way teachers can ensure all of these goals are achieved is through giving students a universal skill that will be used their entire life: organization.
Harrison, Kelsey, "STAGE: The Middle Schooler's Guide to Success" (2018). Honors Theses. 642.