After years of hard work battling your way through elementary school, you've finally gotten to the end! But now, there's a much bigger monster you’ll have to tackle: middle school.
I'm no longer a new face at Central High School who can write to you about the hardships of getting used to new teachers or how hard it is to be given the same college talk every month. But I'm also not yet a senior in high school; there are things I have left to learn as well. I'm writing to you as an incoming junior — somewhere in the middle. It's a strange place to be. You also might feel like you're in a strange place.
To get out of this limbo, we are both going to have to make lots of decisions and learn many new things in the coming months. For example, I have to decide what I’m going to study and where while I learn about things like financial aid, Advanced Placement courses and how to start “adulting.” The decisions we each make along the way will impact us for years to come, and while this transition may be overwhelming, I’ve created this list of general tips that, if followed, should make your middle school journey a little bit easier.
Stay humble. You are no longer the kings and queens of elementary school. You are now at the lowest rank in what is a very, very big school. If you waltz down the hallways on the first day of school like you’re the Queen of England, people are not going to treat you like it. You are there to learn. Be nice, and act like the young adults I’m sure you are.
Take your time. You may not be able to open your locker or get to class on time on the first try, but that’s OK. It’s going to take a little while before you’re used to getting homework every day — and yes, even on weekends — but don’t stress yourself out by thinking you’re never going to able to adapt to these little changes and problems. With time, what once seemed impossible will become a part of your normal routine.
Choose your friends wisely. Seek out people who are nice, care about school, will stay away from gossip and care about you. Someone who threatens to end their friendship with you because you won’t do something for them isn’t a true friend. And don’t be afraid to talk to a trusted adult about the challenges of making new friends. They’re adults because they’ve been through it.
Avoid drama. This is really important. Middle school is a time in which there will be lots of opportunity for gossip and malicious rumors. Gossip may seem juicy at first, but it bites at the end. Always try to stray away from being involved in it.
Know when to ask for help. Middle school is tough, and you shouldn’t have to go through it by yourself. Talk to your parents about things that are bothering you — they will always be your closest friend. In school, there’s an entire department tasked with helping you through the challenging years ahead — the guidance department. Communicate frequently with your guidance counselor. If you have a more serious issue, don’t hesitate to make an appointment to see the school psychologist or one of the school social workers. Those people are there for you.
Never be afraid to be yourself. In an epoch where so many people idolize others and obsessively try to imitate celebrities or follow trends, it’s important to remember what makes you, you. Embrace your individuality. Get to know yourself better. Marianne Williamson, a bestselling author and lecturer once said: “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you … As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
If you carry these simple lessons with you and remember to be yourself, middle school can be one of the best experiences you’ve had yet.
Anthony Cruz is an eleventh-grade student at Central High School in Valley Stream, and is the editor-in-chief of The Crier, the school’s newspaper.