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Tips for New Harding and Garfield Middle School Students

Local principals point out some common pitfalls and share tips for parents and students. The first day of classes in Lakewood is Aug. 22.

For parents with students making the transition from an elementary school to a middle school, these next few weeks can be a challenging time. Students are becoming more independent, but parents still want to help.

The local principals who talked to Patch agree that parents should stay involved, but there are ways to help students spread their wings. Here are a few tips. Parents and teachers, add yours in the comments.

Keep the lines of communication open

Mark Walter, principal at Lakewood’s , said parental involvement is critical at the middle school level. Academic standards are higher, and with a team of teachers and family members, students are more likely to succeed.

As with the rest of the district, the first day of classes at Garfield and is Aug. 22.

Middle school offers a lot of changes for students, from getting used to new procedures to adjusting to different expectations from multiple teachers.

Doug Baker, principal at Mentor’s  encourages parents to “be patient with change” and be ready to advocate for their child if there is a problem. Often, parents wait until an issue is really affecting a student. 

“It’s important to have that communication piece with the schools,” he said, both for social issues and academics. 

Encourage students to get involved
The biggest problem students face is trying to make connections socially and figuring out where they fit in, said Principal Patrick Farrell.

“They’re definitely trying to find themselves,” Farrell said.

Students who are struggling socially may have trouble concentrating, an issue that can definitely affect class performance and grades, he said. Farrell recommended that parents encourage students to be involved in some sort of group, whether it’s a sport, a club or an organization outside the school system.

Baker said his school tries to build a community. The more involved students are, the more ownership they feel and the more successful they’re going to be, he said.

Keep an eye on social media
Parents should also monitor social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, Farrell said. That’s where arguments and other types of bullying often happen now.

Bullying can be a 24-7 problem now, Walter said. Students need to know how to report it and to know that they’ll be supported if they do.

Help students stay organized
Middle school is the first time many students are expected to take charge of their day: they’re more likely to switch classes or have multiple teachers or they might have a locker rather than a desk.

“It’s easy for kids to get overwhelmed,” Walter said.

Parents can help by checking in and making sure students stay organized, he said.

Patrick McNichols, principal at  in Cleveland Heights, suggested that parents help students set up a routine at home, planning a place and time to do homework every day. That helps parents make sure the work gets done, but students are doing it themselves.

"This is the time where the kids need to start developing more autonomy, and the parents struggle with releasing more responsibility to the kids," McNichols said. "I don't think the kids are as scared of middle school as the parents are."

Cleveland Heights Patch Local Editor Michelle Simakis contributed reporting to this article.

Harold Foran August 15, 2012 at 01:21 PM
I understand there are no more librarians at the middle schools. How are our students expected to be competitive when they are being undermined at such an early age?
Paddy Eger August 16, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Great ideas for middle schoolers and their families. If families are involved in the school, it help students realize that education s important. Consider starting a Donuts for Dads and Muffins for Moms program to draw in adults and share your goals and latest successes with them. Paddy Eger author of Educating America:101 SDTrategies for Adult Assistants in K-8 Classrooms. Contact www.paddyeger.com

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