The start of adolescence can be both an exciting and scary time for a child. In the “no-man’s land” between childhood and adulthood, children undergo a rapid rate of physical, mental and emotional change. Depending on mood or circumstance, young adolescents can act like a fifteen-year-old or more like a child of nine, often during the course of the same conversation.
Because of the unique challenges children in the 10- to 14-year-old age range face and to best prepare them for high school and beyond, studies have been conducted in recent years to identify the best type of learning enviroment for these students. The results of these studies have led to a shift in some areas from a middle school structure to a kindergarten through 8th grade (K-8) setting. Here are 5 reasons why:
During the middle grade (5th through 8th) years, young adolescents face a unique set of psychological, emotional and social challenges. The added stress of a transition to a new and different school environment during this time of change can be overwhelming and traumatic. A K-8 school can offer much needed consistency and familiarity as children navigate the waters of early adolescence and a way to delay the transition to a new school environment until they are more mature and better prepared to handle such a change.
K-8 schools with organizational structures offering separate spaces for the lower and middle grades give young adolescents a taste of independence and acknowledge they are entering a new phase in their educational careers while providing the comfort of a gradual transition in preparation for the high school years ahead.
2. More Knowledgeable and Understanding Teachers
Teachers in a K-8 setting are able to collaborative and communicate regularly with one another as it relates to both curriculum and students.
In terms of knowledge, middle grade teachers in a K-8 school are generally more familiar with what students in K-5 are learning and experiencing and can build on that foundation. Likewise, lower grade teachers are exposed to what the middle grade students are learning and are in a better position to prepare their students for the middle grade years.
Regarding student development, middle grade teachers in a K-8 school have direct access to those who have taught their students in the past and are able to gain first-hand insights on the children they are now teaching.
3. Fosters a Stronger Sense of Community
When students stay in one school for the duration of their K-8 years, it offers teachers and school staff members the chance to get to know them and their families really well and vice versa. In addition, with a longer common history and more shared experiences, the school community tends to be more close-knit. This is especially true in a private school setting where class size tends to be smaller, which can lead to the creation of a family-like environment.
4. Enduring Relationships
Students who attend a K-8 school may have the opportunity to interact with some teachers for the duration of their time at the school, such as those who teach gym, art or music, and also have the chance to stay connected with former teachers over a longer timespan. This gives teachers more time to get to know and understand their students and gives students more exposure to potential mentors and role models.
In addition, students attending a K-8 school are able to develop and maintain friendships with one another as they pass through their formative developmental phases, friendships with the strength and depth to last far beyond their school years.
5. Leadership Opportunities
As children reach the middle grades, they become ready to assume increasing responsibility and to take on leadership roles. In a K-8 school, older students are able to become leaders and role models for the younger students in the school. Participating in activities that serve the younger students can prove to be a valuable learning experience for the middle grade student and a great benefit to the younger students who view them as mentors and role models. These opportunities offer the older students the chance to gain self-confidence and leadership skills as they prepare for high school and beyond.
While some young adolescents can and will do fine in a middle school setting, others may do better in a K-8 school configuration. To determine the best fit for your child, explore your options and select a structure that will best meet your child’s needs.