A Guide to Middle Schools
It isn’t uncommon for students to remember their middle school years as awkward and difficult, but in reality, it is the time when most students begin to thrive academically. By this time, students would have gotten through the difficulty of the shift from learning for pleasure, to learning for information and growth. Students, if the goals of elementary school are achieved successfully, should have been fully equipped with the skill and discipline they need to start working within a more challenging, defined, and goal-oriented academic structure. By the time they enter middle school, then, they can start walking on a clearer path which will prompt them to participate more in their academic growth and take increased responsibility for their success.
Middle school is usually from the sixth grade to the eighth grade. A challenge that most middle school students experience is the sudden shift from the simple schedule they became accustomed to in elementary school to a block or departmentalized schedule. Block scheduling is an academic scheduling system that typically features a reduced number of daily classes for students, with each class having a significantly longer duration than students are used to.
A class could be as long as 90 minutes, and unlike in elementary school, where one teacher could teach a class all the subjects, a middle school teacher would teach the same subject to different classes. In other words, block scheduling makes sure teachers teach by subject area. To achieve this, each teacher would have to rotate classes all day so they can teach the same subject.
Some middle schools also schedule using an interdisciplinary team. The way this usually works is that a team of what is typically four teachers share 80 to 100 students and rotate according to a schedule, taking turns to teach their assigned group of students. These teachers meet at least once every week to discuss the progress of their students and any issues or problems that some students might be experiencing, and what steps they can take to help.
When students enter middle school, they are presented with the option of taking electives. Electives give students the chance to select courses that they find interesting. Some common elective classes include graphic art, service learning, music, computers, film production, etc. The range of electives that are made available to students depends entirely on what their respective schools offer. Additionally, students that have courses that need remediation have the option of taking an extra course required in the specific area.
Students that are flourishing academically have the option of taking advanced classes such as foreign languages or pre-algebra. As mentioned earlier, there is a greater emphasis on test scores and preparation for tests.
At the start of middle school, students will be introduced to extracurricular activities that will help them get ready for life in high school. The extracurricular activities are usually sports or clubs that are often unrelated to the basic academic courses, but are school-sponsored and held on school property. These extracurricular activities are not held during normal class hours and usually take place before or after school, sometimes during weekends. In grades seven and eight, schools begin to focus more on preparing their students for high school and helping them choose and actively start working towards a career path.
Junior high school is a delicate time for students and is aimed at preparing students for their future by helping them strengthen their skills and develop unique personalities. Junior high school should enable students to gain an eagerness for exploration, pushing limits, understanding and accepting diversity, developing a desire for self-improvement and personal growth, etc. Junior high school helps students to learn to adapt to a disciplined and goal-oriented schedule during what is typically a chaotic period in their lives. This will help them prepare for the challenges of high school and tertiary education by enabling them to form the habits they will need to navigate the complex structures awaiting them.