A Deep Dive Into Middle School, a guest post by Jessica Speer
Middle school drums up awkward and sometimes painful memories for many. As a writer and social scientist, this made me curious. What makes these years so tricky? I also wondered what it’s like to be in middle school today.
So I asked students. I visited classroom after classroom to gather feedback and listen. I started with the question, What are some of the trickiest things about middle school?
This opened the floodgates. Students wanted to talk about the tricky side of school. They wanted to share their personal experiences and laugh about the weird stuff that happens. Several themes popped up over and over in discussions, including changing friendships, popularity, social media, drama, crushes & dating, judgment by peers, gossip, and more.
Many amazing middle-grade books dive into these topics, but I wondered if I could explore them in a different way. One student suggested it would be cool if there were some true-to-life choose-your-own-ending stories about middle school.
Another recommended that humor is a must.
I wanted to include a dash of science to explain the reasons “why” for common middle school behaviors. Combining all of these ideas, Middle School – Safety Goggles Advised started to take shape.
Some of the best insights about middle school were written on slips of paper when I asked students what advice they would give future middle schoolers. Here are a few of those insights:
“Be yourself, and eventually, you will find friends that like you as you are. People continue to change, so try not to burn too many bridges since you will be with these people through high school.”
“People try to be ‘cool’ to be popular. I would say it doesn’t really matter if your ‘cool’ as long as you have good friends.”
“Just focus on the people who accept you for who you are.”
“Think before you talk behind someone’s back because it could really hurt their feelings. If you are thinking something negative about someone, don’t say it. You might not know the whole story.”
“Accept that everyone comes from different places and homes, and in general, everyone has something unique about them. So just accept people for who they are.”
In conversation after conversation, I found that students had a pretty clear understanding of the social scene. They just weren’t sure how to navigate it yet. This makes sense. The middle school scene is different from elementary school and pretty complex. Heck, even adults struggle with this stuff!
During the middle school years, kids are in different phases of development, navigating puberty, exploring their identities, and transitioning from childhood into young adulthood. To say a lot is going on would be an understatement.
As I wrapped up my research, I asked 8th graders what they wished they had known when they started middle school. This quote from a student sums it up nicely. “I wish I’d been more open-minded, like being more open to new people, new activities, and all the other changes that come with a new school.” Often, hindsight is 20-20, after middle school and throughout life.
Meet the author
Jessica Speer is the author of BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships and Middle School – Safety Goggles Advised (Releasing August 2022). Blending humor, a dash of science, and practical insights, her writing unpacks the tricky stuff that peaks during adolescence.
She has a master’s degree in social sciences and explores social-emotional topics in ways that connect with kids. Jessica is regularly featured in and contributes to media outlets on topics related to kids, parenting, and friendship. For more information, visit www.JessicaSpeer.com or connect on Instagram or Twitter
About Middle School-Safety Goggles Advised: Exploring the Weird Stuff from Gossip to Grades, Cliques to Crushes, and Popularity to Peer Pressure by Jessica Speer, Lesley Imgart (Illustrator)
Take a large group of kids in puberty, send them to a new school, and add a generous dose of tests, homework, and hormones, not to mention diverse personalities, bland food, and unpleasant odors. That’s middle school, and it can be a little . . . weird.
Yes, there are cool things about middle school, like more independence, new friends, and new activities. But there’s baffling stuff too, like harsh judgment, the whole “popularity” thing, and, of course, drama. With insights from hundreds of students, this guidebook explores the halls of middle school, especially the odd behaviors that lurk in the shadows. Slip on your lab coats, because we’re going to dissect these behaviors one by one to understand what’s really going on. With fun illustrations and choose-your-own-adventure-style scenarios, Middle School—Safety Goggles Advised will help you deal with the drama and define who you are and how to navigate life when things get, well, weird.
Publication date: 08/02/2022
Age Range: 11 – 14 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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