By Vera Naputi
Sherman Middle School

“How long will it take me to get from one class to the next?” “What if I can’t remember my locker combination?” “What if I don’t have any friends in my class?” These questions are typical of incoming sixth-graders at Sherman Middle School, who often feel a combination of angst and joyful anticipation.

Every new school year brings new challenges: following a schedule; learning locker combinations; figuring out what teachers expect; knowing which adult to go to if confused or ill; creating a school life balance. For some sixth-graders, these challenges can be so overwhelming that the only way teachers or school staff become aware of a student’s anxiety is through conversations with parents, something teachers and staff at Sherman Middle School value highly.

For example, one student felt confused about which teacher he should go to for problem solving an assignment. Another student had not mastered his combination lock and was late to class consecutive days. A parent reported her child was tearful because she couldn’t fit all her materials into her backpack. While seemingly small concerns, these issues are huge in the eyes of an 11-year-old facing a middle school transition.

Fortunately, sixth-graders fall into a routine and learn how to navigate what initially appeared overwhelming. Parent Monica Morales shared her child’s growth so far. “Since starting middle school, I have seen great growth in my daughter accepting responsibility, and this ownership has given her confidence in her education. Working in partnership with Sherman Middle School, I attribute this to the guidance she receives from her teaching team,” Morales said.

Having a point person for academics, behavior, peer interactions or simple needs allows a fluid teacher-student-parent relationship. Sherman’s teaching team model attempts to build bridges of collaboration and consultation so everyone involved in a student’s life is informed. Infinite Campus, a parent portal that gives access to grades, attendance and assignments, is an example of that collaboration.

Morales supports this tool. “Keep communication open with teachers by using the MMSD app so you are up to date so that, if there’s a problem in a certain subject, parents and teachers can find a way to help the student,” something she feels is vital for her child’s success. She continued, “As a result of this app, the student doesn’t feel like giving up.”

As Sherman Middle School students conclude the first quarter, it’s clear there are many variables involved in a smooth transition. Perhaps the most critical piece is the ongoing process to better communication to create a safe school for learning where every sixth-grader believes they are supported and loved by all involved in their middle school journey.