The middle school experience is full of transitions for adolescents. Sixth graders are transitioning from elementary school and need a lot of nurturing to gain confidence academically and socially. Eighth graders are transitioning to high school and need more time to work independently.
Middle School Division Head Mike Franklin knows the skills and experiences that younger students need to be successful in high school. After all, he most recently served as the Upper School division head, which has informed his leadership of the middle school.
“We want our sixth graders securely in the nest,” said Dr. Franklin. Therefore, teachers provide a lot of guidance and the focus is on effort and completion as students master bedrock skills. “In the 8th grade, we are pushing them out of the nest, but it is done in an environment in which we are aware of their strengths and needs.” Academic accountability begins to shift to the quality of academic work, and exams begin to have more weightiness similar to what students will experience in high school.
Next year, even the use of technology will be crafted around the differing developmental needs of students in each grade level. “I believe our 1:1 iPad concept can be enhanced to diminish the dangers of technology in hands of really young students, while the way technology can be used to make kids excited about learning is enhanced,” said Dr. Franklin. In the 6th grade especially, the digital world will be deemphasized, and the use of printed texts will be bolstered. For example, a young adult “Great Books” series will be added next year.
The middle school experience also includes many opportunities to explore interests. “We focus on the depth and variety of electives so that there is something that will resonate with each student,” noted Dr. Franklin. Next year, eighth graders can choose between 17 different electives, including a world languages class through a partnership with Rosetta Stone and the opportunity to learn one of 22 modern world languages.
The future is bright for MDS middle school students as they benefit from an excellent foundation for success in high school.