By Vanessa O’Driscoll, Director of Middle School
It’s a rather dreary day for May: chilly, damp air has made the grass slippery and the mud muddy, and yet, just moments ago, I watched the entire seventh-grade plant their feet into that slippery, muddy earth with ferocity as they participated in a Purple v. Gold rope pull. That metaphor, pulling your weight, was there in concrete glory. Every one of those kids was pulling their weight, throwing their whole selves into good-old-fashioned, healthy competition. Watching kids work so hard is beautiful. Middle school is hard work! Across the grades, our kids are engaged with work at which they must throw their entire emotional, physical, or mental weight.
Sixth grade is the first year students take a modern language as a core course, not a “special.” Seventh graders take their first tests in science and history, for which they have to prepare ahead of time. And eighth graders, in Cityside, are asked to design an inquiry-based project without specific parameters. These kinds of new challenges push our kids outside their academic comfort zone, which can feel disorienting at first. These fledgling experiences in middle school lay the foundation for the work they are asked to do down the line, but all of them require a new kind of effort.
This year everyone leapt with additional barriers: masks, plexiglass, six feet of distance. That meant our kids, who always work hard, had to work harder.
Next year will feel like a reunion, but even glorious reunions can be a bit overwhelming. We are preparing for the fall when kids are going to need some extra support to dig back into the work. We are enriching our advisory program with specific social-emotional learning plans so that our students feel supported and capable of being their strongest selves. We are expanding enrichment opportunities through Aerie and afterschool offerings so kids can explore new things beyond the classroom. And students will once again participate in some of the all-school events that bring us together as a community: the multicultural showcase, athletic events, the dance show, assemblies, the art show, and, of course, field day. For all of our middle schoolers, next year will be their first year of “normal” middle school. There is a great deal of work to be done, but middle schoolers are powerful, and together they can pull each other through.