Now Middle School

Beginning middle school is an important milestone for both students and parents.  The transition to increased academic responsibilities, new social pressures, and a variety of new extracurricular opportunities can seem like an intimidating path to navigate.  We hope the tips contained in this guide will help you turn the beginning of middle school into an opportunity, not an obstacle.

On the first day of middle school,

It’s tempting to seek school-wide domination.  Walking through the halls, you’re drawn to colorful flyers advertising meetings, fundraisers, auditions, and tryouts.

You’re going to be the first sixth grade student council president, a peer tutor, a piano prodigy, captain of the soccer team, babysitter extraordinaire, Spanish club secretary, and in your spare time you’re going to volunteer at a nursing home, two homeless shelters, and a veterinary hospital.

In short, you’re going to be exhausted.  But junior high lasts only three years, and you should be determined to make the most of it—the Energizer Bunny has nothing on you.

Managing Extracurricular Opportunities

In middle school, for the first time, you’re going to be bombarded with opportunities to have fun and get involved at school.  It’s easy to stop every five steps to jot a time and place in your agenda as you walk down the halls, but tread carefully or you’ll find yourself attending French club meetings when you don’t even take French.  The trick to success is quality, not quantity.

Initially, however, you should pay close attention to those flyers and announcements.  Go to all the meetings and classes that interest you or look like fun.  Get a feel for the club, organization, or team.  Find out when they meet and the overall time commitment.  Once you’ve collected all the information, evaluate your options and your time.  Make sure their schedules coincide with yours—there’s no point in joining a club or organization when you can’t make the meetings.

Once you have all the facts, pick the activities that not only fit your schedule, but that you enjoy most.  You should never dread student council meetings or basketball games!  Extracurricular activities are your chance to develop your interests; don’t waste an opportunity to explore.

Gracefully Ending Commitments

If you do find yourself unhappy in a club or on a team, all is not lost!  You can always back out, explaining that you aren’t getting everything out of the experience you had hoped, or pointing out an unforeseen scheduling conflict.  Dropping a commitment, however, takes a lot of consideration.  Don’t leave in the middle of an athletic season or before a big fundraiser.  Not fulfilling your responsibilities means more work for the rest of the team or group.  Wait until you’ve fulfilled your obligations to the group before leaving. Learning to manage commitments now is a value that will become even more important in a few short years.

Opportunities Outside of School

Middle school touts itself as the land of opportunity, but let’s be honest—some of us aren’t cut out for student council and yearbook staff.  If you fit into that category, no worries—there are plenty of extracurricular activities available for you nonconformists.  Call the park district or your local YMCA for sports and classes.  Check the yellow pages for music teachers, ice skating rinks, dance studios and fine arts schools.  Contact a nearby college or educational program and ask if they offer programs for middle school students.  Pay a visit to a nursing home or animal shelter and see if they need volunteers.  The opportunities are out there; you just have to search a little.

Learning to Schedule

Now that you’ve signed up for the newspaper, tried out for the soccer team, and scheduled cello lessons, pull that agenda back out and write down your lessons, practices, meetings, deadlines, etc.  Some people profess to have a schedule in their heads, but don’t fall into that trap.  As one of those people, I can tell you that my confidence has failed me on more than one occasion.  I’ve missed meetings, deadlines, and events because I relied on my undependable memory rather than writing down those important dates in a calendar.  It always seems unnecessary and inconvenient, but taking ten seconds to write “12:30 film club meeting” in your agenda will come in handy on that day you wake up late, miss your ride, leave your folders at home, and forget to pack a lunch.

In addition to helping you remember important dates and times, looking at your schedule in advance helps you plan ahead.  Take a quick look at your week on Sunday night and scribble a mental note of any preparations you need to make.  If you have a biology test on Friday and a debate team fundraiser on Thursday night, you’ll know to do most of your studying on Wednesday night.  Looking at your schedule will help you determine those adjustments.

Junior high is a fun time in your life, but it can be overwhelming.  Learning to juggle academics and extracurricular activities now will give you an important head start for high school and beyond.

Recommendations

  1. Take time to choose meaningful and fun activities that suit you
  2. If you want to leave an organization, make sure your responsibilities are fulfilled
  3. Search outside your school for some truly unique opportunities
  4. Learn and practice the skill of scheduling and agenda-keeping

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