Relationships and Collaboration in Middle School
If you're paying attention to the media, you probably think Middle School is going to be overwrought with hyper-dramatic social conflicts and petty battles between the cool kids and the nerds. Middle School isn't the easiest time socially, but Montessori classrooms provide a different model for the necessary socialization of Middle School and, as a result, often see a different kind of climate. You're less likely to see the cliquey exclusion typical of TV shows about kids this age and more likely to see small communities of learners who demonstrate a respect and loyalty to each other uncommon for kids this age.
Simply, because most Montessori Middle Schoolers have been Montessori Elementary and Montessori Early Childhood learners first. The qualities of children's lives, the peacefulness and collaboration, the willingness to work together and to bring out the good in each other, protected in the earlier years, blossoms into full fruition in Middle School. This is not to say that the window of development is without any bumps. Indeed, learners at this age still need to make sense of rapid changes in their bodies and minds. They still struggle with whether they are accepted and fit-in. They still waver between the influence of their peers and their own values. But they also take responsibility for themselves and for each other. They also seek peaceful resolutions that make their collective stronger. They also care for each other and for themselves with a confidence mainstream schools too often make too little space for
Your work as a parent, then, is to promote these experiences without getting in their way. Your child still wants your input, even though they may roll their eyes once or twice. Your child still needs the quiet, accepting space of home to unpack the experiences of their day and talk through the issues they may not yet have resolved. And while they should take more leadership and agency in advocating for themselves with their teachers now, they still want to know that all the adults around them are on their side and partnered together. This is the time to make connections with their teachers, to let them know that you are still engaged and interested. While many parents start to decrease their involvement in school activities at Middle School, you should avoid that trend--- your children still need you there. Be present at Back-to-School Nights or parent programming. Reach out to other parents to schedule down time on the weekends and evenings, to connect your child's school experience to their life at home and beyond. Middle School is more integrated (and less stressful) when learners can play the same "role" across all the areas of their lives. While they may explore different hairstyles and choices of dress, you don't want them to feel pressured to have one persona at home and another at school. Instead, look for chances to blur the lines between their home and school lives by supporting time with friends outside of campus, and by building those connections yourselves as adults.
Remember: you are walking alongside your Middle Schooler, indeed, with them a little bit in front. You can't guide them in the same way that you did when they were younger. But you can still provide a steady influence and a safe place to land as they spread their wings. And that's work more easily done when you don't feel like you're alone back there. Focus on making connections with teachers and other parents, both in the coherent service for the students but also in supporting the community and belonging you need. Fewer parents opt for Montessori Middle School than Early Childhood or Elementary-- these are your people. Building positive, supportive relationships with them will also help you to understand and feel confident in your choice to stay in Montessori through Middle School. Make eye contact. Invite another parent for coffee. Invite them over on the weekends or head to the library together. Your child needs their community, So do you.