Bargell: Climbing the middle school mountain
“Grays or Torreys?” echoed through the halls so many times you would have thought I was attending a convention for mountain climbers. Instead, I merely was lending a hand to process a few of the several thousand (OK, maybe 15 or so) forms needed for entry into Summit Middle School.
The place was packed by 8 a.m., providing students a glimpse of next week when they need to be at their desks ready to go at that time. The pleasant surprise was everyone there was pleasant, and encouraging – right down to the kids. That’s right, when I inquired of each one of them that passed through my station whether they were excited about middle school, my question uniformly was met with a big smile, and an enthusiastic nod of the head. A few also admitted to some pre-school jitters, particularly concerns about whether they’ll be able to remember their locker combination.
My sympathy meter was on low, however, as I thought they should be glad they’re young. At least they’ll remember they have a locker. It was exciting to be a part of a day where each student realized they had a new mountain to climb, metaphorically speaking. So much so, by the end of the process I nearly was ready to enroll myself. Nearly, being the operative word, as I still have some vague recollection of junior high. Plus, our daughter was embarrassed enough by my presence at registration, I can’t imagine how mortified she’d be to have me around all the time.
Many folks know that a few years back, the middle school was split into two learning communities, each named after one of the esteemed Fourteeners mentioned above. I honestly don’t know all of the logic that went into the restructure, although I do recall the school board and middle school administrators at that time giving serious consideration to the benefits of the two smaller communities. The kids still have contact with one another during lunch and specials, such as PE, but their core classes are taken with students from the same learning community. Then, in high school they all come back together. My guess is that in addition to promoting learning, having the “schools within the school” keeps the kids enthused about reuniting in high school.
Because it was my first day at the middle school, I too wanted to learn a few things. From the parents I came in contact with who had kids in Grays, I was assured it was the best community. Of course, the parents with kids in Torreys also were confident the Torreys experience could not be beat. The lesson I learned is parents throughout the county had good words to say about their kids’ middle school experience, many confessing that they too had harbored concerns about the middle school years.
From the sound of it, the school – teachers, administrators and staff – have done a good job in taking the some of the angst out of middle school, regardless of what mountain you land on.
I then gave some considerable thought to my role as a parent as our daughter embarks on this journey. The gift of “roots and wings” that my mother-in-law recently shared with me came to mind. Letting go is a big part of this experience. However, what I don’t want to lose is the enthusiasm for the school I felt when I walked in the door this week. I owe it to our kids, and to the taxpayers supporting their education, to continue to be enthusiastic about the importance of learning. It seems when kids reach the secondary level, it can by easy to pull away from the school experience. Rightly so, to a degree, because the kids need to learn to be responsible for their education. They still need us, however, to enthusiastically cheer them up that mountain, recognizing that even though they are growing up, it’s still a long way to the summit.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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