What Every 6th Grade Middle School Parent Should Know

If your child is entering an Issaquah School District middle school, this might be a great primer before the year starts.
My 6th Grade Parent Handbook is still a work in progress. My child has not fully crossed over from all headaches FSLittle Kid Land to Mature Independent Scholar yet, but he’s getting closer. Beginning my first year as a 6th grade parent I attended all the welcome events and coffees, and read all the documents, but I was not prepared for what went down as a very rocky and dramatic middle school start. My son was fine. I was a wreck.  Logins, passwords, online grades, teacher websites, and pdf documents became an organizational nightmare. I have a bright kid who is super day-dreamy. Pretty typical for this age. But it’s a bad recipe when his mother is the same way. You will probably fluctuate between over-involvement and total neglect of your child’s education, and that’s okay. Here are some tips for surviving your very contradictory and very educational first year as a middle school parent.
school_books1. Your student is now responsible, self-sufficient, and motivated, and you should stop nosily interfering with his/her homework.
1B. Your student is now in a swirling vortex of 900+ kids who are all violently hitting hormones at 100mph while trying to remember the adverb of the Pythagorean theorem while cross-referencing molecular chord progressions at the bottom of an archeological dig in Egypt. Child’s play, right?
2. Any time you are navigating through teacher websites, their files, calendars, and expectations you’re considered over-involved because 6th graders are self-motivated and responsible, and they are supposed to have taken these notes, marked things in their own calendars and bookmarked their teachers’ websites.
2B. If you haven’t navigated through teacher websites, their files, calendars and expectations, your child will probably let massively important things fall through the cracks, causing dismay and grey hair upon the parental figures.
3. If your 6th grade science teacher issues 9th grade level textbooks written for Marie Curie, just nod and go with it. They know what they’re doing.
3B. If your child’s science book is too difficult for you to decipher, send an email to the teacher with your white flag. He or she will be happy to respond to your questions, and they actually enjoy sharing their knowledge (or they might reroute their aggressive course a little).
4. If your 6th grader’s PE teacher issues a test for your student to take on Student Access, and you didn’t know there was such thing as Student Access, you’re not alone. You shouldn’t be accessing your child’s Student Access (perhaps so you aren’t tempted to take the online test yourself and improve his or her grade). All your time should be spent freaking out about what’s displayed on Family Access. (Refer to 6B on the play-by-play drama and sweats of the Family Access grade book.)
4B. Learn to bookmark the eight websites you will need to quickly access this year…yes, EIGHT. It’s okay, your browser can take it, but your brain will not. Believe me, I tried to type in “www.pacificcascademiddleschool.com” like a zillion times, and not one time did it take me to the school’s website. I’m not the fastest learner. It would be nice if the URL were that clear-cut, but it’s a dot-org, and it’s a subset of a zillion other district organizations. Just bookmark them in your browser and stop pulling out your hair.
5. Even if you are Albert Einstein you will NOT be able to remember all the separate logins and passwords for the online 6th grade Literature text, online (non-downloadable) Health text, Student Access, Family Access, lunch money account, and at least two others. Don’t stress. Write them down and tape them somewhere you’ll remember. Email them to yourself (and don’t delete). Remember texting on a 12-digit keypad? (A, B, C…C…no – lowercase! a, b, c…c!) Prehistoric texting wasn’t pretty, but it eventually got a lot smoother. Technology will improve such that next year I’ll be able to remove Warning #4, I’m sure.
6. If you find yourself wringing your hands and clawing at your face in frustration on a daily basis because you keep logging into Family Access to look at your child’s wildly dynamic grade book, you’re over-involved. Step back. Your middle schooler is organized, motivated and in control. Don’t worry about the play-by-play drama that unfurls every day on that calendar. Items in red (missing assignments) and failing grades are all in your child’s control.
6B. If you’re not wringing your hands and clawing at your face in frustration when you check Family Access, you’re not checking it enough. Log onto the site with your student by your side. However, never check it when you can’t get an explanation for all the items in red, or the poor grades. “Johnny, why am I seeing RED again?!” Also, schedule a regular weekly “Grade Check” session after the first week has been completed. The shrieks of powerlessness will eventually diminish in number.
7. The math textbook is not like the ones we grew up with. There’s no lesson and example problem that begins each chapter. There’s no answer page in the back. This is new math and it’ll take a little while to get used to. During class the kiddos are listening, watching, processing, taking notes, writing formulas, and creating their own samples. They create the textbook themselves. You know that “Learn By Doing” thing? This is a mathematical version played out interactively. It leaves us parents with our hands flailing in the air as we struggle to remember what y=mx+b means. We will find ourselves Googling a lot…(or khanacademy.com). Your child’s teacher is a wealth of practice sheets and notes. They love this stuff! You’ll love it too…eventually.
8. Every teacher is different and embraces technology at various rates…just like parents! One teacher will have the kids access a textbook online while another will use the paper copy. One will respond to emails within the hour and another will take a day or two, and still prefers to talk on the phone. You have to find every teacher’s rhythm if you’re going to find yours.picking_each_others_brains_400_clr_9340
9. If you are not totally bald and grey by the end of 6th grade, you’re on the road to a smoother 7th grade. It gets easier. Talk to your fellow parents. Attend PTSA meetings. Listen to teacher presentations. You’ll discover that crossing over from Little Kid Land to Mature Independent Scholar is easier when you have other parents by your side.

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