Talking it Over with Grade 8
Ask any middle school counselor about the length of time between winter break and spring break and you will hear stories of 7th and 8th graders falling apart just a little. What this means in concrete terms is that the individual and social drama within these year levels reaches a bit of a fever pitch in late winter. At the same time, they haven’t been wrestling with it long enough to realize that it isn’t worth the time and energy it takes to sustain. To help facilitate some reflection and hopefully change along these lines, along with the tutors, we asked the students to complete a check-in survey with a variety of questions. Please see the survey here. The point of the survey was to gather anonymous data to benchmark how the students felt they were doing: academically, personally, with friends, in the eyes of others, and as a year group. Clearly this wasn’t a diagnostic instrument but an entry point to a larger more meaningful discussion. I tallied the results, put them in a presentation, and used wordles to share the open ended questions at the end.
Rather than come in and just me talking with the grade 8s, I thought it made the most sense to ask some of the amazing upper class students I know through student council to come in and share their answers to the following:
- 3 words to describe your class.
- 3 reasons why the atmosphere you have in your class is helpful in high school
- What would be something you absolutely would not want in your grade?
The older students were brilliantly candid and articulate. They remembered the amount of drama they had when they were in middle school. Two of the panelists remembered being more or less arch enemies in middle school and now being good friends. They remembered how much energy it took for them to keep those conflicts alive and how great it felt to just let go of them and move on. They spoke of how in middle school you can go to bed one night feeling badly for how horribly you treated someone and the next night go to bed feeling badly for how horribly you were treated. The grade 8s nodded and listened intently. There were questions and suggestions. At another point there was a heads down polling of the grade. We ended one of the sessions with the high school students sharing their hopes for the grade 8s. While even the wisdom of the older student’s recent experience may not be enough to save the current grade 8s from having to go through a bit more of the struggle themselves, the exposure to more mature ways of thinking and acting was well worth it and maybe, just maybe…with a few more steps…some of it will stick – AC