As I sit and look at the snow and think it finally looks like winter, I think about the needs of our middle school students. Teaching middle school students is not just about teaching them academics, but about meeting their social and emotional needs, and preparing them for high school.
At Pequot Lakes Middle School, we have core curriculum which includes the subject areas of science, math, language arts/reading, and social studies. We also believe it is important to have students experience a variety of practical arts such as music, band, choir, art, FACS, pre-engineering courses (Project Lead the Way), and keyboarding/computer applications classes. By offering these diverse classes to students, we provide opportunities to develop their interests and strengths. This in turn can guide their course and career decisions in high school.
Middle school students are small, medium, and big bundles of changing hormones. Just walk through the halls of a middle school during passing times and you will realize how unsure they can be about their physical presence. If you could observe 5th graders and their emotional and social needs, you would see they are very different than those of 8th grade students.
How do we at Pequot Lakes Schools meet these needs? Our advisory/intervention period is called Patriot Time. A portion of Patriot Time is spent on interventions to help students who may be behind in their math or reading skills to work in small groups to advance their skills. The advisory program can also help students feel cared for by providing a personal contact with a teacher for problem solving, and they are an effective strategy to help students make the transition into the middle school. Once a week in Patriot Time, students in grades 6-8 meet with their teacher to participate in a program called Ramp-Up. This program provides academic, career, financial, personal and social readiness activities that prepare students for high school and developing a post-secondary plan.
We have also brought in programs and speakers to help our students with some emotional and social skills. All 7th grade students attended a Youth Frontiers Courage Retreat on February 5 at the Trailside Center. The retreat introduced students to the value of moral courage. Students participated in fun, large-group activities and in small-group discussions with high school student leaders. This helped students identify social fears that prevent them from making good decisions, and understand how acting with courage can make a positive difference for themselves and in school. Students hopefully gained more confidence to resist inappropriate social pressure. To culminate the event, the students wrote a commitment for doing an Act of Courage in their community or school. We also had a motivational speaker come on February 13 to discuss peer relationships with our students.
Middle school students are constantly changing. It takes academic programs that have flexibility to engage students in their learning, and advisory programs which teach and build positive relationships with students for their emotional and social development. This is what we strive for at Pequot Lakes Middle School.
-- Susan Sergent, Middle School Principal