So You're in Middle School... Now What?

Posted by April Hedman
Who can forget the challenges of starting middle school? Was yours a difficult transition? Enrollment Director April Hedman discusses how we have made the transition into sixth grade easier for our students.

Do you or someone you know have a student entering middle school or looking for a change? Contact us to learn more about our Dialectic School for students in grades six through eight.
My eldest daughter started at Caldwell when she was in sixth grade. I remember her initial thoughts. Will I make friends? Will the teachers be nice? Wait, I have to learn Latin?

Yes! Starting a new school in middle school can produce nervous feelings. Middle school has a reputation, right? Some of that can be attributed to the season of life, some is the environment.

I love how we do sixth grade at Caldwell Academy. Some years ago, the middle school leadership saw our sixth-grade students were not getting the traction needed for success. After emerging from the elementary-school years, our students still needed some hand-holding alongside new freedoms to purposely develop some important skills.

Our leaders decided that while sixth grade would remain part of the middle school, the students would be housed separately; in their own hallway, with all of their academic classes next door to each other. It would be the first time they would change classes, manage a schedule, and develop and maintain some new academic habits.

Titanic changes happen between fifth and seventh grade. There are academic, social, and emotional changes as well as all of the new chaos adolescence brings. At Caldwell, our sixth-grade program gives students time to adjust. Our Academic Resource Center holds monthly mini-workshops with the students where they offer training and tips for organization, time management, and study skills—equipping them for the expectations of middle school.

In sixth grade, our students can walk to lunch, physical education class, and electives on their own without having to wait for a teacher. They love this new freedom! They are accountable for the assignments and homework they record in their daily agendas but still get prompts or reminders from teachers. Parents can also provide nudges from home, as all homework and progress are posted in our school portal. 

As new Dialectic School students, they get to experience electives for the first time. Students are required to experience each of the core electives (art, band, choir, and drama), one per quarter. This is designed to help them branch out and possibly discover a new interest.

We teach Latin at Caldwell through eighth grade and, for new students, this can sound intimidating. It is difficult, in that learning a new language can be difficult. But seeing personal progress can be such a win! We equip our incoming students with a Quizlet vocabulary list for the summer and a week-long boot camp to start the school year.

Athletics start in sixth grade and students can compete on a middle-school team in cross country, soccer, basketball, volleyball (girls), and baseball (boys). In seventh grade, track and field, swimming, and tennis become varsity sports options.

Our drama department annually produces a Dialectic School show, plus a Rhetoric School show, and sometimes a production that combines students across both schools. Students can try out for these productions in the sixth grade!

A favorite sixth-grade tradition is the field trip to Fort Caswell, North Carolina. Students study marine biology in science, and the 20th century in history, so the trip takes them to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher and to explore the battleship U.S.S. Carolina. This trip usually takes place in the fall a few weeks after school starts, a perfect time for the newly minted middle schoolers to bond and fellowship with one another.

During the middle school years, we teach our students how to build an argument and use credible sources for their evidence. As a gospel-driven, Christ-centered school we always point students back to our ultimate source of truth, the Word of God. Our community has a weekly chapel where students spend time worshiping together and hearing God’s word spoken and taught. This is the most important work accomplished in middle school, coming alongside parents to mold “who” our students are becoming, not just “what” they know or can do.

Middle school can be a sweet, if occasionally incomprehensible, time. We desire to partner with families at each life stage, to assist parents from a biblical perspective in their child’s education, and to help students become who God made them to be.