When it comes to schooling, two big moments are likely to stand out in any adult’s memory: the terrifying first day of elementary school, and the jubilations of graduating from high school.
But it’s the transitory nature of middle school, that strange middle ground between elementary and high school, that makes it so exciting for Carly Hunter, principal at Royal Oak middle school, as she watches students grow from when they start sixth grade to when they finish the eighth.
“It’s sort of incredible,” says Hunter. “You don’t even recognize what they look like in Grade 6 [when you look back]. They grow, they learn, they develop values … they start to want to make changes in the world.”
Hunter says there’s “a lot of enthusiastic exuberance” at middle school, but that’s not to say kids at that age have it easy. Power struggles, friendships, figuring out where they fit in their social circle and, of course, the trials of puberty are all challenges that kids face as they grow into young adults ready to take on high school.
Parents can do a lot to help kids through those years, however. “One thing that I always really want to say [to parents] is to have a conversation with their child about goals for the year,” Hunter says. “Talk about how they see themselves as a learner.”
Parents should also foster whatever talents their kids may be developing. “Not everybody’s gonna get A’s, but everybody’s good at something,” Hunter says.
And to the students themselves, Hunter has these words of advice: “Schools are not scary places, they’re caring places … There’s people there to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
That goes especially for anyone scared of having a locker for the first time and forgetting their lock combination. “It’s a real fear,” says Hunter, laughing. “You have to ask [students] what bothers them, because as an adult I would never have thought of that.”
Any Royal Oak middle school students who want to get some lock practice in are invited to pick one up a week before classes start.
“It’s not a huge deal for us, and a huge stress reliever for them,” Hunter says. “Easy peasy, right?”