527The middle school years are years of great transition. Leaving elementary school behind and preparing for high school can be a time of whiplash and uncertainty. Facing it alone can be daunting; at Diegueño Middle School students have company and support.

Parents and students can both be surprised by the maelstrom of emotions that comes in the middle school years. New opportunities, new behaviors, new challenges, and new rewards all swirl around 7th and 8th grade students, and helping ground our kids in good decision making and a sense of school community is a big part of what we do.

Teachers lead the way by showing their students respect, holding them to high expectations, and helping support them as they meet (and exceed) those expectations. I see this in classrooms every day as students roll up their sleeves and work together on projects, their teachers circulating the room answering questions, helping focus learning, and supporting kids. I love that our classrooms are rigorous learning environments often punctuated with laughter.

Peers help each other by reinforcing positive behavior. Overwhelmingly students at Diegueño make good decisions and help others make the right choices. The typical Diegueño Cougar is quick with a smile, says thank you to adults, works hard in class, and demonstrates an understanding of right and wrong. This isn’t to say that everyone makes the perfect decision the first time; this is middle school after all, a time when students are still learning ropes of being good citizens.

Today, for instance, a student came to my office to admit reaching into a broken vending machine, it’s door off its hinges, and taking two bags of trail mix. “I knew it was the wrong thing to do,” he said, “and I don’t want to be a person who does stuff like that when I’m older.” He won’t be, of that I’m sure, and the poise and remorse he showed in my office today made me prouder of his confession than I was frustrated with his earlier choice.

The other adults on campus help kids with the transitions of middle school. Our counseling and office staff show students love and caring as they hold them to high standards. Our campus supervisor and plant manager help as they reinforce proper behavior at lunch and between classes. Even administrators, Corey and I, do our best to lend a hand as we get to know students and families and model what it is to be a part of a caring school community.

It’s this focus on community that defines who we are at Diegueño, and guides our commitment to helping students and families navigate the waters of middle school. Together we can do great good, and make this time of transition a positive one.

An important part of this is recognizing that middle school is more than a layover between the elementary years and high school. These two years at Diegueño are vital to the establishment of positive habits, understanding of academic expectations, and development of civic awareness. Just because our calendar time together is shorter than K-6 or 9-12 education, the intensity of our work is just as great. Maybe greater.

So too is the importance of our partnership with moms and dads, grandparents and caregivers, aunts and uncles. The adults who parent our students have a huge impact on how their students middle school years will unfold.

Parents support their students by asking questions and getting involved. 7th and 8th graders look and act much different than they did when they were in elementary school, but they need their parents just as much. We try to help parents by providing lots of information on what’s happening here on campus (through our website, Facebook, Twitter, and even blogs like this), and our students thrive as they see that their lives are filled with adults who care about them as students and as people.

Finally, students help themselves by making connections to school and finding activities that help them find balance and perspective. Involved students are successful students, whether it’s ASB, a club, or a love for a particular subject in school. I love that it’s rare to see a student eating alone at lunch here at Diegueño, and that students know that they came come up to adults on campus and talk.

Ours is a dynamic school community with a commitment to help each other and build a strong and kind school family. We all have a part to play, and as we help students through these many transitions our strength comes from the fact that we play our parts …together.

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