What positive characteristics does a 4K-8 school bring out in middle school age students?
Middle school is a time of great self-awareness, self-obsession, self-absorption…..see a pattern here? Yes, middle school age children are very concerned with themselves…their appearance, their ability to make friends, their emotions, their independence, and the way they are viewed by others, especially their peers. These students are often uneasy speaking in front of people, being seen with their parents, or doing anything that would affect the way they are perceived by others. They are very self-conscious about how the things they say, do, or feel will be viewed and judged by their peers. For that reason, they often stifle emotions, reactions, and responses that they actually feel at the risk of losing their “reputation”.
In a small 4K-8 school, middle schoolers are both leaders and are allowed to still be children. Where else but a small 4K-8 setting would you find middle school age children willing to stand proudly with the whole school to recite the school creed, stop on the way outside to tie a first grade partner’s shoes, or make Christmas soldiers out of construction paper with that first grade partner? Being in a school with smaller children allows these students to express those true emotions that might be viewed with criticism and intolerance in a strictly middle school setting. In short, being in a building with younger children allows middle schoolers to both continue to enjoy childhood, and enjoy leadership roles in the school.
Middle school students as mentors?
We don’t often think of a middle school age student as a mentor. But in our 4K-8 school that’s what they are! At Sheboygan Leadership Academy 7th graders all have Kindergarten partners, and 8th graders all have first grade partners. This mentoring relationship is a valuable part of both partner’s education. I always enjoy seeing an eighth grader seeking out their first grade buddy on the playground. I love seeing the excitement on the first graders’ faces when they see their partner in the hallway.
“I like having Jessie as my partner cuz we have lots of fun together . . . Last year she was in volleyball and I got to watch her games!” Sarah, grade 1
“I like it that whenever we go down to get our partners for an activity, they are so excited to see us and tell us what they’ve done . . . It’s not just like elementary and middle school—we’re all together.” Sarah’s partner Jessie, grade 8