Welcome back to Top Ten! It’s officially back to school season which leads us to today’s topic: Top 10 Questions Answered for Incoming Middle Schoolers. As a former middle schooler (not too long ago) I’ve been there and will share my advice from the other side.
Is middle school difficult?
With middle school comes managing new responsibilities. You may find yourself with more homework, projects and activities but I promise it will all be manageable. My biggest piece of advice is to write down what you need to do. There’s too much to remember on your own and your teachers are dealing with way more students than in elementary school so they expect you to be more accountable for yourself. If you feel overwhelmed by what you have to do, prioritize what must be done and create a schedule that works for you.
Is middle school fun?
Yes! Just like anything else in life, middle school is what you make of it. You will have way more opportunities to get involved with your school, join clubs, play sports, etc. Put yourself out there, try new things and see what sticks. Plus, in trying new things you will find people who share the same interests as you- it's really all a win-win.
Will my friend group change?
If there is one thing certain with starting middle school, it’s change. Starting middle school means you pretty much double the amount of people you are regularly around. If anything, this is something to look forward to. You get to be surrounded by so many people you never had the chance of knowing before. Friend groups may change in big ways or small but my biggest piece of advice is to recognize the people who leave you feeling good about yourself. Those are the people you want to surround yourself with. Additionally, the first people you become friends with in middle school may become your new best friends or they may just be an experience to meet someone new. It’s okay to outgrow friendships, just approach it all with an open mind and be yourself and you will be surrounded by the best people for you.
Will people pressure me into doing things I don’t want to do?
Middle school will bring lots of new opportunities and experiences into your life, most of which are positive. However, it is possible that difficult situations will arise where you may feel pressure from peers to do things that you are not comfortable with or that are illegal. It can feel hard to say no but remember that no friend worth keeping will make you do things you are not comfortable with. Additionally, you can create a plan with your parents to come pick you up from any situation you are not comfortable with, no questions asked. You can also plan out excuses you can give if you don’t want to outright reject your peers. For example push the blame to your parents, say you have other plans later on or the next day that prevent you from partaking, suggest a different activity or change the topic.
Will other kids make fun of me?
It’s really impossible to know what exactly your new classmates will be like. The important thing to remember is most people mean well and have good intentions. That being said, of course life has its share of difficult people. If a classmate is giving you a hard time, do your best not to give into their mean spirit and be the bigger person. Additionally, don’t be afraid to talk to an adult you trust on how to navigate this issue, whether that's a teacher, parent or coach you trust and figure out how to handle the situation with them.
What if I have no one to sit with at lunch?
The first lunch of middle school can be nerve racking, especially if your friends don’t have the same lunch as you. The good news is if you are feeling this way it means other people are too. Try sitting with someone you met or sat by in your last class. You can also look for other tables that aren’t full and sit with new people, most people will be excited about getting to meet someone new!
Are the teachers harder graders?
As I’ve said before, this transition comes with new responsibilities. Your school load will likely increase but your teachers do not aim to give you more than you can handle. Teachers may expect a different effort level than you had to give in middle school but this also provides fun opportunities to complete new kinds of work. For example, you will do work in focus areas such as cooking or art or music. Finish your work in a timely manner and speak up when you need help, your teachers want you to succeed and really are your biggest cheerleaders.
What if I get lost in my new building?
I remember this being one of my biggest fears when I started middle school as I consider myself to be a bit directionally challenged. My first piece of advice is to utilize middle school orientation. This experience will allow you to see the school for yourself and often provides you with an opportunity to walk through your schedule. If you’re anything like me, walking through your schedule once won’t make you a pro but it will at least give you a foundation. On the first day, don't be afraid to ask for help. Teachers will be standing in the hall and are there to guide you. Also, you can try to memorize paths and what is near each other to help. I promise that you’ll be surprised by how quickly you’ll know the school back and forth. Soon, you’ll be the experienced older kid watching the new students try to find their way (so don’t be afraid to help them)!
Do I really have to change in a locker room?
One inevitable is middle school gym class. While it may seem scary, it's honestly a nice break in your day where you can be active with your classmates. Gym class does mean having to change in the locker room which may bring about anxiety but know that everyone will feel a little uncomfortable changing at the start. The good thing is everyone is so worried about themselves I promise no one is looking or cares about you changing. If you feel really uneasy about changing in front of others there are bathroom and shower stalls you can change in. Also, don’t expect to have time to shower after class. There’s really no time, so just make sure to have some deodorant, perfume and maybe some dry shampoo in your gym locker.
What if I am not ready?
I promise you are more ready than you think you are. Change is hard but also really exciting. I met some of my best friends to this day in middle school, found new passions and developed lifelong relationships with my teachers. Middle school is full of growing pains but this is all a part of the journey of growing into who you are supposed to be. I can’t stress enough the importance of just being kind and having an open mind. This is a transition period for everyone and I promise everyone is nervous. Give people grace, befriend new people and take on new challenges. You will be happy you did.