My daughter started her second year of Middle School last week. After a year of being a 6th grader at the bottom of the school’s totem pole, she was excited to return to a place that she’d formerly found intimidating. It was no longer a new and scary world. She was returning to school as a seasoned, worldly (dare I say a little jaded) 7th grader.
And because my daughter apparently knows everything about everything, I sat down with her to ask about what tips she might have for kids (and parents) who are just starting Middle School this year, and feeling a little nervous.
She had a lot to say. Parents, feel free to pick and choose from these nuggets of wisdom… and edit accordingly.
ON MEAN KIDS
Daughter: Middle School is really hard if you go it alone. You need friends who will watch your back when the mean kids start coming around.
Me: Are there always mean kids? At every school?
Daughter: Yes. I mean, not to freak anyone out, but mean kids are everywhere. But it’s ok, because that’s just the world. You just need a few friends who’ll watch out for you.
Me: What do you do if mean kids still target you anyway, even when you have friends?
Daughter: That’s a tough one.
Daughter: Well… you know how you always tell me to ignore the mean kids and remember that they’re probably just unhappy in their own lives and that I should just walk away?
Daughter: That doesn’t work. Just go find your friends, and tell them what happened. Just make sure to remember that sometimes your friends can turn into the mean ones. So watch out for that.
Me: Wow. Sounds like a rough world, Middle School.
Daughter: You have no idea.
Daughter: The thing about trying to be popular is that if you’re popular, you never know if kids are your friends for real, or if they just want to be around you because you’re cool. So you never get to just relax and be yourself with people. Plus, most of the popular people are so obsessed with being popular that they have nothing interesting to talk about. I suggest not being popular.
Me: Did you try to be popular last year?
Me: What if a fairy godmother came to you and told you that she could make you super-popular if you wanted, with just a wave of her wand? Would you do it?
Daughter: I don’t think so. Because then I’d have to worry about makeup and stuff everyday, and I don’t have that kind of time.
Daughter: I totally recommend making friends with geeks and nerds, especially if you are one.
Me: And you yourself are you one?
Daughter: I’m absolutely a geek! All of my friends are geeky and we like geek stuff.
Me: Like what?
Daughter: Like comics and sci fi and books and role playing games and whatever. If you’re a geek, it just means you like whatever you like, and you don’t care if other people like it or not. Do NOT reject stuff you like, ever! Just like what you like, because there are always kids who will like that stuff too.
ON DEALING WITH TEACHERS
Daughter: The thing about Middle School is that you have a bunch of different teachers, and they all want you to be something different. So you have to be ready to have a different personality for each one.
Me: What do you mean?
Daughter: Like, last year when I was in Madame D’s class (French), I had to be super obedient and never do anything other than answer her questions because otherwise she got super mad and she yelled. And then in Ms. C’s class (English), I had to try and be really outgoing, because she likes the kids who speak out. And in Ms. A’s class (Math)… well, she just hated me, so I really couldn’t do anything about that.
Me: Ms. A didn’t hate you.
Daughter: You weren’t there.
Me: I always thought you should just be yourself and try your best, and if you do teachers will be happy with you.
Daughter: Yea. That’s a total parent thing to say.
Daughter: So the thing about lunch is that it’s really hard to have an appetite when there are all these boys around doing TOTALLY GROSS THINGS like picking their noses and wiping it on the tables and THAT’S why lunch tables are sticky, and also why I always come home with my sandwiches not eaten, so you shouldn’t get mad at me and say I waste food. It’s not my fault.
Daughter: If you haven’t heard that many bad words in your life, you should probably prepare yourself because kids swear a lot in Middle School.
Me: When? Like, in class, or at lunch or what?
Daughter: ALL THE TIME.
Me: Were you shocked by all the bad words you heard last year?
Daughter: A little, but not too much because I’ve heard you swear before.
Me: You have not! I don’t swear in front of you! [Writer's Note: I admit I have a serious potty mouth on me, but when the kid was born I realized I was going to have to change as a human in order to not swear around the kid.]
Daughter: Right, Dad. You go on believing that.
Daughter: There are a lot of slackers at my school, and I don’t like that. You shouldn’t be a slacker in Middle School because if you do, it’ll be a lot harder to do well later in life.
Me: What do you mean slackers?
Daughter: Kids who don’t pay attention in class, and goof off because they think that’ll make them cooler. I don’t think they even do homework.
Me: This from the kid who groans every afternoon at homework time?
Daughter: Hey, I still DO my homework. But I don’t think some kids do any! And my advice to 6th graders is to ignore slackers because they’re just being lame because they think it’s cool not to care about school. I mean, it’s not like I care about school all the time, but you have to take it seriously because grades are important if you want to go to college.
Me (silently to self): See, brainwashing WORKS.
ON ACADEMIC PRESSURE
Me: Do you think grades are taken too seriously by parents and teachers?
Daughter: Sort of. I mean, like, let’s say a kid gets a B in Math.
Me: A hypothetical kid?
Daughter: Yea. Ahem. A kid gets a B in Math, and the Dad says he thinks the kid should be able to get an A instead.
Me: Hypothetical Dad.
Me: Of the hypothetical kid.
Daughter: Exactly. It’s not fair, because a B is a perfectly good grade, and the dad should just relax and let it go.
Dad: That’s a great point. If the kid works her butt off to get that B, I bet the hypothetical Dad would be fine with it. But if the kid is actually really good at Math and only gets Bs because she doesn’t slow down and focus enough, then maybe it’s ok for that hypothetical dad to urge the hypothetical kid to work just a little bit harder.
Me: Just speaking hypothetically.
So there you have it, Folks! SO much good advice! Good luck, all you Middle School kids! We’re rooting for you!