Lynne Macziewski, Head of Middle School, shares her perspective on Middle School challenges.
The struggle is real. And asking for help is hard. If something sounds too difficult for me, or I don’t know where to start, then I procrastinate and put things off until the very last minute (like writing this blog post!). There are definitely times when I get stuck on something and want to stop, go for a walk, or just ask someone else to do it for me. That would be so much easier! But, in the end, I know that I will be better and will grow as a professional and as a learner by working through it myself.
As a parent, you see your daughter as she struggles through a math problem and wants to give up, or she forgets her books at school and won’t finish her history project on time. Your first instinct might be to help her solve the problem or fix it for her. You want to say: “No problem! I’ll drive back to school and pick up your books.”
Now, occasionally it’s okay to do this. We all have bad days or get stuck on things and just need a little extra help sometimes. However, if we, as parents or educators, step in and relieve the pain point on a regular basis, our daughters don’t learn how to solve problems themselves or find a way to remember to bring their books home. Instead, they learn that whenever they encounter an obstacle, someone else will do the work for them. They won’t ever reap the benefit of overcoming the struggle or learn the deeper lesson that is being taught at an opportune time in their lives.
Middle School is a great time to remove the training wheels. Take a step back from helping your daughter with every homework problem. Resist the urge to remind her to pack her dance or PE clothes. Don't check her planner; let her do it … or not! See what happens! Our Middle School girls are developing into strong, smart, capable young women and, when given the chance to try things out on their own, to take risks, to fail, their character deepens and they blossom and grow.
Self-advocacy is a necessary life skill that is deeply important to cultivate at an early age in young women. Whether for her needs or the needs of others, learning to communicate and advocate will help your daughter be more successful in all areas of life while building her level of empathy.
Teaching these skills is an integral part of what we work to build into every fall semester. Each new school year or grade level brings new teachers, new roles, new expectations, and new responsibilities. Our faculty and advisors are skilled in myriad ways in building self-advocacy skills that are appropriate and applicable to each year of Middle School life at GPS.
Our teachers set clear expectations, help girls create routines and reminders, and, most importantly, they teach girls how to problem solve and communicate with others. They teach girls that it is a sign of strength and maturity to admit to a struggle, a failure, or a need for help. They teach students how to ask questions, seek solutions, and fight for what they believe in.
So, the next time your daughter becomes stuck solving a problem, grows frustrated with a decision a coach made, or forgets to do something important, ask her what should she do next. Girls learn to be problem solvers when given the opportunity to solve their own problems. Even though it might be hard for both of you, encourage her to reach out to her teacher, coach, or advisor and share the mistake she made, or why she is struggling, or what she needs help with. Suggest options when needed, support her in her choices, and let her know that you believe in her. Those hard conversations and challenging life lessons are what, in the end, will build her self-advocacy skills and make her an even stronger, smarter, and more confident young woman. The struggle is real and is a vital part of growing up.