1. Make sure your child wears socially and age appropriate clothes. Take a visit the year before school begins and take note of what the kids are wearing. No rolling backpacks or any juvenile looking anything. Make sure they "blend in".
2. Identify what type of experience you’re looking for. If it’s a combination of academics, sports and social, design the schedule of classes for that experience. You may need to give up something in order to gain in another area. We wanted and created, a more well rounded experience.
3. Meet with the principal and get to know the secretaries and administration. If you begin with the Principal, everyone follows suit including teacher selection, setting the schedule and all support for your child.
4. Network to find out who the preferred teachers are at the school. The kids and parents are the best place to start. By reputation, they all know.
5. Find teachers and classes that match your child’s learning style. In middle school, we had 6 periods and shorter days on Wednesdays, so it’s hard to keep the academic rigor and outside activities equal. We focused on certain academic classes and added a TA(Teacher’s Aide) time for homework. He was exposed to additional academic classes, without the stress of having to do all the rigor.
6. Identify supportive students and request them in your child's class(es). We asked for a few of Brandon's friends in his PE class where an aide can’t supervise in the locker room to be his locker room buddies.
7. Identify potential problem areas such as PE, restroom and lunch time and develop a plan. When adults are out of sight, you don’t know what could happen.
8. Develop a preferred communication method with teachers, aide and team members. We used email, a communication book and texting. Texting was the best for immediate answers.
9. The top 5. These are people identified to look out for your student. We had Brandon’s teachers, aide, the school secretary and drama coach. We also identified boys who looked out for him if needed. This proved to be a winning formula.
10. Be flexible and open to change. Try different strategies and give it time. Adjust them accordingly to fit different situations, teachers, classes and grade levels. What was important as a 6th grader may not be so much 7th or 8th grades. Communication is key for all parties involved.
Finally, don’t take anything personally and give others the benefit of the doubt the first time around. Then investigate the situation to gain understanding. With our kids, you may not know all aspects, so pick your battles wisely. Work at creating partnerships throughout the middle school community and find solutions to issues that may occur on and off campus. At times it can be tough!