By Rachel Plucker, 5th and 6th Grade Math
Your 6th grader wants to be taken seriously.
Sixth Grade is a time of growth, change and the beginning of finding oneself. Intellectually, students want to be taken seriously. Your 6th grader may complain of being treated “like a kid.” Students are acutely aware of themselves, their environment, and they are beginning to think in new and more critical ways.
A safe place to ask questions
Your 6th grader wants to be challenged at school. He or she does not want to be bogged down by busy work especially if he or she doesn’t understand the value of the work. School needs to be a safe place to ask questions. At Randolph, our teachers try to create that safe space within the classroom, but also offer assistance both before and after school if a student would rather seek help outside of class.
Your 6th grader’s thinking is becoming more critical. Students this age are beginning to make sense of the world outside themselves. They can understand how their actions can have influence, positively and negatively.
A safe place to be yourself
Socially, your child needs to feel included and valued for his or her differences. In turn, they need to be aware that others have these same needs. A program that addresses the social needs and social understanding of students can help students in all areas.
In an article describing how one school meets these needs for its students, a principal noted that “a good middle school had to recognize and respond to the stages of adolescence as well as to fulfill their students’ intellectual promise.”
Clay Elliott, our Head of Middle School, wrote this post about the value of difference and diversity in middle school.
A safe place to take intellectual risks
Study skills are an important part of any student’s academic plan. In 6th grade, students are beginning to really understand what sort of study habits are productive and which are not. It is important that in middle school we give students the chance to test new habits without the risk of ruining a GPA. While students are graded, these grades do not follow them into the Upper School. Students begin taking risks at this age and it is a great time to offer intellectual (or positive) risk-taking in the classroom.
I often tell parents that the middle school years are like running a marathon. There are often no quick fixes, but at the end you can truly see how far they’ve come. In 6th grade, we are nearing the halfway point of the marathon, and students are learning how they learn so that they can transition to more independent work habits that parents do not need to consistently monitor, as long as the student is going in the right direction.
A safe place to explore interests
One reason that extracurricular activities are so important is that they help students have a well-rounded experience and to organize and prioritize their time. One Harvard study points to 6th grade as a key indicator of success in academic success in high school, for reasons that are in many cases structural, but that correlate with the need for 6th graders to have a sense of belonging and connectedness at school.
Relationships with peers are paramount for most students at this age. In class, they love to socialize with peers. Activities in the classroom that allow for collaboration, movement, and hands-on manipulatives give students the chance to use their energy in a productive way. In math class, we often have students on the floor, in the hallway, and up at boards instead of just working quietly at their desks.
A challenging program will address the whole child and their development on all fronts: academic, social, and emotional, because each is important as your 6th grader is launched into adolescence. Your student will need a solid foundation of study skills, academic knowledge, character, and sense of identity that consolidates in this important year.