I remember sobbing. Sobbing my eyes out as I got into the car on my first day of 6th grade because I was terrified of the dramatic change my whole life was about to make. Walking into the gym, I remember looking up at a crowd of people and only seeing a few familiar faces. My stomach dropped and I knew that middle school was not going to be one of my fond memories from that day on.
I could blame the school for the way my middle school experience went and I quite honestly did for a while. But the real problem was found in the insecurities that run rampant during these transformational years. Yeah, I had teachers that completely sucked the life out of all their students. They reminded me of Profesor Umbridge. But I also had awesome teachers, some of which have inspired my career choice.
What I really needed was someone to tell me these 10 things. I had plenty of adults and my wonderful parents who got me through that time but middle schoolers are a bit stubborn and want to hear it from a cool college kid, right? Let’s go:
- Talk to the people at your lunch table.
One of my biggest dreads on the first day of school was lunch. Who was going to sit with me? Turns out, one of my best friends was once a random stranger at my lunch table. Talk to her as soon as possible. She is going to help you through so much in the coming years and without that random seat, this friendship may not have occurred.
This concept applies beyond the lunchroom, however. Talk to the person sitting by you in class or the one who has a locker under you. Middle schoolers are soooo worried about the perception people have of them that it ends up holding them back. Forget the other kids and focus on the people who see value and a bright light shining in you.
- Being called a nerd is a compliment.
I remember this one group of boys (who were in my same classes btw) jokingly calling me a nerd. Okay, okay, I can handle that. But then, people who wouldn’t even talk to me started being excited when I was in their group and would also ask me to help them with all their work. They saw me as nothing more than a robot who would help them get by and it got me real down.
Looking back, I realize that being the “nerd” is actually AWESOME because that means you value the knowledge found within your little brain and can do world-changing things with it.
Don’t ever let someone make you feel bad for working hard and valuing something you enjoy. Your brain is a piece of you that could one day come up with a cure for cancer or write the next famous novel. Use it every day and thank your little brain every night. and when those mean boys call yu a nerd, smile and say “Thank you, I’m lucky to be one.”
- Don’t be afraid to pull out your book and read.
I loved to read. I started reading Harry Potter in second grade and finished all of them by 4th. When I arrived at middle school, I quickly realized that this hobby was not cool.
Side note: can we just ban the word “cool” in schools? It messes things up real bad!
If I would have been more confident in myself, I would have read a lot more books, learned from a lot more fictional characters, and experienced a vast amount of worlds. That in itself is worth not being “cool”. Learn from me and go to the library today to pick out your next adventure.
- Listen to your mom.
She is a wealth of knowledge and has been through these tough years herself. She is not trying to make things harder for you; it’s quite the opposite. Listen to her advice and go out and follow it. Simple.
Especially when I could have been on What Not to Wear-Middle School Strikes.
- Learn from your teachers.
You know that teacher that told you the world was going to end and it completely sent you into a week worth of intense anxiety? I think the whole class left that day and figured out how much time they had left before 2012. Ha! Learn not to be that teacher one day. Instead, build your students up and be a positive force in their life.
You know that teacher that who helped you improve your writing and didn’t just say it met the standards? Be that teacher who pushes students to achieve more than what was previously accepted.
Most importantly, be kind and fair. Because every middle school student is struggling whether they have a tough face or not.
- Disregard the cool crowd if they are mean.
I remember noticing this group of kids throughout middle school who had this “cool” air about them. They wore the latest Hollister graphic t-shirt, wore eye shadow, and were always the ones with a constant group around them. Not to mention, some of them were just plain MEAN to others. People who did not have this air about them were so freaking intimidated and now I just want to shake my middle school self and say, “STOP”.
You already know my feeling about the word cool so I don’t want to beat a dead horse. I don’t have to step into Hollister and Aeropostale because it will bring me up the social ladder. I don’t have to wonder why they don’t see value in the person I am (their loss). I am me and that is beautiful.
*What I have found is that this cool crowd goes one of two ways once they get out of high school: a) they learn to not care about what is “cool” and start being who they really are which is a beautiful thing to witness or b) they continue to strive to be at the top of the social ladder and in turn, become not very cool (or liked) themselves.
- Keep that Jonas Brothers CD.
No, they aren’t going to last until Year 3000. No, they aren’t going to remain a group. Keep the CD, relish in the memories. Your college friends will think you are the bomb.com for it.
- Band is freaking awesome.
I started band in 6th grade and played the clarinet. It was my favorite time of the day because I find peace and excitement in music. I quickly became ashamed of this though because it became a constant joke to people in my classes. They saw nothing but embarrassment in the hobby, and looking back, that breaks my heart for them.
Enjoy your time in band and be proud of your musical ability. When you get to college, others will think your ability to read music and play an instrument makes you a genius. You will miss it one day (as I am now) and will wish that you would have gotten even more out of it. Play that clarinet girl and mean it!
- YOU define yourself.
When I would walk into the middle school each morning, I would be extremely anxious to see how I’d be perceived that day. I tried to acclimate to who I was around so that they would like me. However, even at that time I remember always staying pretty true to myself because this authentic soul inside of me wouldn’t let me stray too far away. By the end of middle school, I realized the beauty of defining myself.
No one in that school knows you better than you do (don’t ever let them tell you otherwise). I loved writing, reading, laughing with my friends at the cheesiest of things, playing music, and talking to everyone. The really neat thing is, everyone has a different list of qualities that define them and that is what will make schools live and breathe authenticity.
Take pride in the unique, authentic person that you are because this is truly the best way to take advantage of middle school. Foster this feeling of authentic living because it will save you from a world of heartache in high school.
- Have hope.
Middle school is a small season in your grand life. It is three years that will pass in a blink of an eye even though at the time, you think it’s the end of the world. Have hope in the present time. Please don’t wish it away because life moves pretty quickly without any help.
But also have hope in the future. Know that there are far richer experiences ahead that will leave you feeling filled to the brim. High school and college will be full of so many new, authentic people who will make you feel proud of who you are. Have hope because one day, you will want to go back to middle school for the rest of your life as a career. Have hope and be joyous in it.
In the world we live in today full of uncertainty and bullying by adults (as seen by this time in our country), we need to teach this generation the power in authenticity. We need to teach them the power of respecting others’ authentic self because not everyone is going to be the same.
If you have gone through middle school and survived these scary years, what are some advice you’d give to this generation of kids with a very bright future? Comment below because every piece of advice could change a life of a middle school student of today. Better yet, let us, the grown-ups, model these traits in our own lives.