#6: Why middle school?


In popular imagination, adolescence is awkward and tragic. When we think about middle school, we often think of our most difficult memories. But maybe we’re doing it wrong? Over the next several weeks, Andrew will explain more about each of our key design elements. Below, he writes about the power of adolescence . . . because middle school should be amazing!


Over the last year, I’ve asked parents to remember their middle school experience. I often ask them to think of a word or phrase that describes their middle school selves. And I’ve learned that when we think about middle school, we often think about our most difficult memories. We remember friends that turned out to be liars. We remember big bullies and mean teachers and saying precisely the wrong thing at the exactly wrong time.

Middle school was awkward. (I mean, have you seen pictures of me in junior high?)

We’re terrified by the memory of our middle school experience, but that’s also important proof of just how powerful middle school years can be. In our shared narrative, we survived middle school. We closed our eyes, gritted our teeth, and, well, just kept walking. Because it’s only after we survived middle school that we blossomed and found our closest friends. You know, in high school or college.

And it’s true: adolescence is confusing and complicated. Adolescent bodies and brains are exploding with new ideas, new experiences, and new feelings. Cognitive research explains the extraordinary development in early adolescence brains is only rivaled by the rapid maturation during infancy. We know firsthand: preteens can be impulsive, inconsistent, and unpredictable.

But what if middle school were different? What if middle school helped children find their interests and passions? What if middle school helped adolescents navigate the scariest moments of childhood with grace, love, and strength?

You see, adolescence is amazing!

Adolescents are creative, independent, and passionate. The same traits that make adolescents challenging are the same seeds that grow interesting and unique individuals. The same habits that make adolescents frustrating are the same qualities that develop into strong and independent leaders. The same qualities that look like rebellion in a traditional classroom can help create transformative change in society.

When middle school students challenge adult ideas and routines, they also challenge us to be our very best selves. I believe we should listen! So, what do you say?

Let’s do middle school right.

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