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  • Writer's picturedrjennifer_tauks

The Struggle is Real

Navigating middle school academics for parents and students can be an overwhelmining process for both parties. Many parents worry about the transition from elementary school into middle school, fearing that their child cannot meet and master the academic expectations. However, I am here to say….YES, THEY CAN! The secret is…it’s all in the struggle.

Research and science prove that providing increased difficulty to a task creates a productive struggle for a student. In turn, students learn strategies that are most effective for their overall academic growth. A middle school is a safe place for students to learn how to practice learning and mastering new academic skills through their teacher’s guidance. For some students, learning a concept may take time, energy, and some struggle. In the end, the mastery of that concept is achieved even with a little struggle. The long-term benefits of a little struggle in middle school will set your child up for long-term success in high school.

Our brains have the capacity to move from one side (learned concepts) to deep learning (mastery). Instead of thinking of learning as a switch in a student’s brain-either a concept is learned or not learned-look at their brain as a roadmap to connection. As learning a new concept begins to take place in our brain by connecting neurons, a path begins to form. Each time the concept is taught and repeated, our brains begin to work a little quicker at understanding what is being taught. Repeated practice, consistent work production, and guided feedback lead to mastery of a skill.

Middle school brains are ready for learning new concepts, struggling with understanding and applying them, and eventually mastering them. This increases your child’s self-confidence and academic independence.

Parents, when you see your child come home with a low grade, instead of focusing on how to earn extra credit or boost that one grade, speak with your child about asking for extra help. Meeting with the teacher and having the concept explained again or other steps to increase learning will give your child the beginning tools to understand how they learn and self-advocacy skills. Middle school students need the opportunity to practice time management, ask for help, and utilize the resources they have available to them.

Developmentally, middle school students are in-between phases of transition. They left elementary school and are preparing to enter high school. We need to remember that middle school students are wanting independence, autonomy, and responsibility. Middle school is an optimal opportunity to structure, guide, and promote academic success. Let your child struggle a little and feel what it is like to have to put more time and effort into learning advanced concepts. Mastering these skills and sitting with these feelings will provide lasting benefits into adulthood.

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