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Middle School Education In The Us

Discussion in 'General Discussions - USA & Canada' started by BhumiBabe, Apr 13, 2017.

  1. BhumiBabe

    BhumiBabe Gold IL'ite

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    This Thread is to collect thoughts, observations, and advice regarding Middle School education in the US.

    Middle school is a time of transition, for both the student and the parent. It's not easy to figure out what opportunities to present to our children to help them grow. Please share your experiences about middle school education and what you wish you had known earlier. Also, in what ways can parents supplement for the things lacking in the classroom?

    You can share about anything; language arts, math, science, parent-teacher conference, extracurricular activities, sports, art, music, pre-AP, standardized testing, bullying, social development, etc.
     
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  2. butterflyice

    butterflyice Local Champion Staff Member Platinum IL'ite

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    Thanks for starting this thread as well as your excellent post in the other thread about US Elementary Education.

    My thoughts about Middle school are all second-hand at this point of time. There seems be a resigned cynicism about the mediocrity in middle schools which is sadly ascribed to the pangs of growing up. Strangely though, most of us who grew up in other countries (not just India) haven't experienced these hyped-up pangs. Sure its a tough phase, but it would be a stretch to attribute that to mediocre academic performance.

    There is also lesser involvement of parents in school activities, which has its own good and bad points. Middle school is also the time when most kids finally start learning a second language. Some schools start at 6th grade and some in 7th grade.

    I also get that students could do some amount of social-emotional learning which is so needed at this stage what with hormones, changing friendships, mean-girl mentality and so forth. Sadly the schools in my district do not offer SEL learning. I have no idea where to look for SEL resources.

    Another key aspect which you brought up in your post is the absence of self-confidence in Indian- American kids. Of course, many American kids face this too, but it seems more rampant among Desi kids. I am hoping I can find some resources when other members pitch in.
     
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  3. BhumiBabe

    BhumiBabe Gold IL'ite

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    I am an Adult who attended middle school in the US (as well as elementary, high school, college, etc.). My family lived in an area that had a small Indian population (since it was a blue ribbon school district), so I attended school with many different ethnicities and the Indian to Indian competition was considerably less. I say all this, because each area is different, so my experiences might not be the same as everyone else's.

    One of the strange thing that I have learned about Middle School is that, in the long run, the education matters less than the social aspects I learned there. I think major learning happened in High School, but Middle School felt like filler. When I reconnected with my long-time friends, they say the same. I don't mean that children shouldn't be challenged to learn at this age - that goes without saying, but the social techniques and insecurities we have collected as young middle schoolers, still seem haunt us. For example, a friend of mine was outgoing, but chubby in middle school. She started working out in high school and managed to get thin, but she was so self-conscious about it that she exercises daily (a diets extremely) to keep her physique.

    1. Classes - GT and pre-AP - I think it's important to keep your children involved in accelerated learning programs during middle school. For one, finishing Algebra and Geometry early, is a big benefit in the long run. It helps with preparing for the PSAT and SAT in high school. The other benefit is that children would keep themselves in a high standard because they are in an environment that encourages them to maintain it. A lot of parents started SAT study at 8th grade... I think that's a little overboard, because kids have 2 more years until they have to seriously take it.

    2. Clubs - This is a broad term, but I am calling anything that has leadership opportunities a club. Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, HOSA, or the science club, are all very good opportunities. Allow your children to choose a club that they are interested in and encourage them to get involved in the leadership. Running for an office (President, VP, secretary, treasurer), whether they win or not, helps to cultivate the social skills necessary for later in their lives. The Indian kids that were involved in Boy/Girl scouts actually do the best in college and beyond.

    3. Foreign Language - With many school districts' "cost cuts," it's usually the foreign language department that suffers. Learning a foreign language is a nice to have, especially since American education seems to only be in English. I have seen parents pushing for an Indian language test, to waive the foreign language requirement. If you can find a program nearby willing to do this, that's great. The test would require a reading and writing portion, so the average kid with no prior training would not be able to pass. The benefits of a foreign language happens when your child gets to actually use it outside of their comfort zone. For example, using Spanish when volunteering in a Spanish speaking school district or when visiting India, mingling with local children or even volunteering there.

    4. Extracurricular Activities & Sports - Everything is exploratory at this stage. Being involved in sports at this stage is just to gain confidence in one's abilities. From a health aspect, it is crucial for children to be involved and have the confidence to participate. Being involved in sports helps children with time management in their study and social life. (All the kids who were involved in a sport/activity, knew how to prioritize their time and didn't waste it) The main thing is to follow your child's interests. Pushing them into something they don't like, will not benefit them.

    5. Personal Hygiene & Appearances - This is a weird one, but I will share a personal experience. When I was in middle school, during gym we had to wear our gym shorts and shirt uniform. I was so self-conscious about wearing them, because I had hairy legs. My mom refused to let me shave or do something about it. This sounds so dumb, but it made me feel really uncomfortable all through middle school and high school when I had to be seen in shorts. Something similar happened with training bras... Anyway, long story short, kids are very self-conscious and when other people judge them for what they wear or how they wear it, it does affect them in the long run. Even now as an adult, that circumstance bothers me, while knowing it's not even a big deal. Another friend of mine remembers how her mother would dress her up in clothes from the ladies section rather than the juniors section. It still bothers her, that she felt so ugly in middle school. All I can say is, try to understand where your kids are coming from. Telling them to brush off what other people say, isn't quite helpful. Letting them create their own identity, where they don't need to compare, would help their self-esteem.

    6. Temple or Church activities - If there is one really big weakness for many Indian kids, it's the lack of temple infrastructure. American children who have families involved in churches really have a big benefit (there are Americans that aren't involved, so they don't have this benefit either). Churches usually have a Sunday school and leadership opportunities for tweens/teens. These children can also network with other children, and participate in volunteering opportunities hosted by their church. I complain about it all the time, but Indians are awfully stingy with donating money to their local temple (if they even have one). By creating this safe, spiritual place that is welcoming to children, they will continue visiting even after they leave their parents' home. The generation a couple years younger than me, had the opportunity of Bal Vikas, which gives them the same benefit I mentioned.

    Please keep in mind that the activities I mentioned are to cultivate a student's self-esteem, work ethnic and leadership skills, so that they can start building their resumes in high school. Children are allowed to make mistakes and fail in middle school because those mistakes will only help them learn to be more independent and motivated individuals. There are numerous opportunities in high school and college, where children need to write essays of their experiences and the challenges they faced. There is less importance to their grades, than how they utilize what they learned.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 22, 2017
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  4. RShree

    RShree New IL'ite

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    I second that.
    Thank you very much for your detailed post. I am a parent and a tutor. With that experience I too say "it's important to keep your children involved in accelerated learning programs during middle school"

    The main issue I found here is "how to keep the kids motivated?"
    Most of the kids assume they know what their interests are and do not want to give it a try for those which falls outside that frame of assumption
     
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  5. BhumiBabe

    BhumiBabe Gold IL'ite

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    I can only speak from personal experience, but most kids are NOT quitters. This means that even if they are not motivated and lose interest in an activity, they still continue participating because their parents have ingrained in them that they should not quit (for various reasons, like they already vested a lot of money and time for private lessons, instruments, events). But I think that it also breeds a sort of hopelessness in one's actions - as if once you choose to do something you are STUCK in it forever. Giving a child the choice to quit and try something else, that is more suited to their interests, is a powerful thing. Very few Indian parents allow this - my own parents didn't and neither did my husband's (and he grew up in India).

    Let them fall, and have to work their way back up. We can't let them think that everything will be handed to them in the real world. My parents were afraid to take risks with us, but in turn, my brother and I have become people who are also afraid to take risks and challenge ourselves.

    I also forgot to mention... Part-Time Jobs. Middle schoolers are old enough to start earning money. Earning money and money management are really good skills to learn at this age, and it helps on resumes (I promise). Some great options are babysitting, lawn mowing, lifeguard, Front desk assistant (smaller, kid friendly establishments like YMCA, Kumon, summer camps), dog walking (obviously for animal lovers and kids that aren't allowed to have pets at home), etc. I got my first job a little late, at 15, but the kids I worked with have already been working for a couple years. The experience of earning a paycheck or some cash, challenged me in a ways my parents definitely couldn't have.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
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  6. vidhyalakshmid

    vidhyalakshmid Platinum IL'ite

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    My daughter will be in middle school coming fall. Thanks for the thread.
    It gives an idea what to expect and what to do.
     
  7. Induslady

    Induslady Administrator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Hi @BhumiBabe
    First of all thank you for starting this thread! It's definitely going to be a very resourceful thread for those first-time Moms of Middle-schoolers (like me). We have always heard from experienced moms here (of pre-schoolers/elementary/middle-school/high-school) and it had been very useful to get those moms perspectives. Needless to say how more useful it is to hear it from an adult (US Desi) who have been thro' the US School Education herself! Your thoughts are sure going to give us the child's perspective that will help to guide our child better.

    Let me ask you a question about the GT and Pre-AP classes to start with. So in Middle school, is it an option given to the child to choose Pre-AP or not, provided they are capable of handling advanced courses?

    I have seen in most Elementary (public) schools, GT placement is done by either the teacher identifying and pulling out, or some parents getting the kids to take the GT placement test during summer. If a child is pulled out for GT in Elementary, do they automatically qualify for Pre-AP in the Middle school?

    Do you know what happens to those kids who did their Elementary in Charter (or) Private schools and then come to Middle schools (in Public)? How do they qualify for Pre-AP courses?

    I also heard about high-school credit for the same electives if done 2 years (like Foreign Language, or Art, or Theatre, etc.). Does this really help during High School ?
     
  8. momto2kids

    momto2kids New IL'ite

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    Thank so much for starting this thread!
    My son is going to middle school this fall. And I have similar thoughts and questions.
    My son is short compared to his class mates by a foot. This is already causing him social stress in elementary grades.
    Kids are really mean and you are supposed to live with it.
    I have seen his close friends, who are also Desi kids, talk like bullies with him right in front of me.
    When playing BB, they say "come on, you suck at this."
    And many times I have seems them say verbal or in chats..."you are so small and weak, forget about it, no one(girls) likes you". etc...

    When I am around, I do tell them that it is not the right things to say to your friends, but I am not around all the time. GOd knows what kids Face at schools. And this was all at elementary.

    I am glad My son takes it easy about such talk and he has learnt to laugh it off. But I am afraid what middle school will bring.
     
  9. BhumiBabe

    BhumiBabe Gold IL'ite

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    When children move to Middle School, they are asked to select their classes before the school year begins (usually while they are still in 5th grade, but it could be during the summer). During this time, students are able to select which classes (pre-AP and electives) they want. Kids that were not in GT in elementary school, have an opportunity to select pre-AP, without any testing. Once students decide the pre-AP route, it will help them choose accelerated classes when they are selecting AP classes (Depending on the current requirements for each subject, they would set a pre-requisite of pre-AP for selecting AP classes.)

    I took Spanish in Middle school, which fulfilled foreign language credit in high school (this is mandatory in HS so some parents try to help their children test out of this, with their native language.) It's actually helpful, because there are AP exams for languages in high school, and having an extra 2 years can be beneficial. Now, middle school normally offers Spanish (and French, if we are lucky), so the choices are very limited. If you child wants to learn German, Chinese or Latin, which are offered in HS, or if they plan to test out of the requirement, you can opt out of taking it in Middle school.

    Like I said earlier about letting kids explore, this is their chance to see what they like and don't like. Electives like band and choir are prerequisites for HS level band. If your child is interested in theatre (it's a really popular elective in Middle school), its a great opportunity for them to try it out and gain confidence on stage. I don't believe Art has any strict guidelines on having to take it in Middle school, but times may have changed. In Middle school, the investment toward extracurricular is lower than later in their academic career. It's tough to join band or orchestra, without private lessons, when the student is in High School.
     
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  10. BhumiBabe

    BhumiBabe Gold IL'ite

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    That's rough. Children can be horrible bullies, and having friends like that would be really tough. I would read up on material what parents can do regarding bullying (it is a bit limited, because you can't fight all their battles when they are in school) It's good that your son is able to laugh it off, but it may eventually still affect his self-esteem. Encouraging him to follow some of his own interests (and things that he can do well) or joining a club (like boys' scouts), may help him deal with that. I reiterate boy scouts, because it's a special environment, with fewer children. Boy Scouts Leaders are trained to handle bullying and finding ways to support children who may be at risk. Boy Scouts eventually become champions and handle bullying situations effectively.
    Apparently, the bullying starts as early as pre-school and kindergarten :cry:

    Good luck @momto2kids
     
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