I keep seeing articles about kindergartners heading off to school for the first time, and parents are feeling all the things kindergarten parents feel.

I’ve been a middle school teacher for my entire career, and I know for sure that middle school parents are feeling all the feelings too.

We teachers are ready to receive your babies in middle school too. In our neck of the woods, middle school starts in sixth grade. Fifth graders were at the top of the pyramid in elementary school, but they arrive in middle school as the little ones. In the eyes of the parents dropping them off on the first day, they are simultaneously newborns, teenagers, and “almost” high schoolers. 

And the teachers know, I promise.

We are ready to welcome your pre-teens, and even better? We are excited.

Middle school teachers are a special breed.

We spend our careers living the most awkward years, on repeat. Most of us don’t graduate; we stay in middle school, helping your children navigate the grays that have often just started to appear in the cracks of a world that so recently was entirely black and white. 

RELATED: The Middle School Years Are Challeging

Before your children arrive, we will have spent quite a while setting up. We will have created a fine balance between colorful decorations and more mature teenage years. Teams of teachers will have shared intro activities. We will have perused our rosters and gotten a sense of who these children might be. We will have designed classroom layouts that allow for students to navigate between multiple groups. We will have attempted to anticipate a nearly infinite array of behavioral, emotional, and academic needs.

We will be ready to see your children for who they are.

No, as much as I would like to, I can’t tell you that this transition will be easy. It’s a hard time. Children becoming teenagers face some real challenges, and you may be on the receiving end of that frustration. Most of these students are dealing with having multiple teachers for the first time. Their bodies are changing (and they do NOT want to talk about their bodies). Their friendships are growing more complex (they want to constantly talk about their friendships).

And middle school teachers are HERE FOR IT.  

We understand the complexities of middle school relationships more than you can imagine—we are professional teenagers, ready and willing to help your once sweet, cuddly child find their way to themselves. 

And by the end of eighth grade, most of them have. They’ve hit some bumps, and they’ve lost some friendships. They probably even failed a test or turned in an assignment really, really, shockingly late.  

But that’s the beauty of the weird world that is middle school.

Ultimately, it’s a sandbox.

A good deal of the content repeats in high school, and, bonus, no one really looks at middle school grades (with some, sports-related exceptions).

RELATED: Middle School Is Hard but It Won’t Last Forever

This is the time to explore new interests, to make mistakes—they can reinvent themselves, yet again, in high school in just a few short years.  

So, yes, middle school is kind of awful, for many reasons. And it’s important we put that out there. No amount of programming will make adolescence easy, but we can make it better.

Middle school is also awfully amazing.

It’s a chance to make new friends, start a club, build relationships with the first adults who will write recommendation letters.

So, parents, my advice? 

Don’t be afraid to reach out, but also don’t be shocked if, when appropriate, we include your child in our email response. Let them fail . . . not so much that they can’t recover, but enough that they feel they don’t have to be perfect. Let them ask their teachers for help when they need it. Let them navigate friendships.  

There’s very little that middle school teachers haven’t seen before, and we are ready to support your gloriously strange teenagers as they explore this ridiculous place.

We’re ready. 

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Sarah Knutson

Sarah Knutson is a mama to three wildings. She is a teacher, writer, photographer, and avid camper living in Napa Valley. She loves late summer nights, snuggling by the fireplace, and always has ingredients on hand to make brownies. You can follow her adventures at Roaring Mama Lion to read more about her experiences as a mom and winemaker's wife.

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