An Open Letter to My Middle Schooler (and Yours, and You and My Middle School Self)


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Dear Roxie,

Welcome to the middle of middle school. Year two. Grade 7.

Remember how you worried last summer about having only four minutes between classes to cross a big, unfamiliar building, and about memorizing your locker combination, and how you would handle the homework load and who you would eat lunch with, and a whole list of what ifs that I don’t even know?

You and every other kid, my girl. Everyone starts middle school with those same what ifs. You were never alone. Know this. Everyone was a little terrified. Everyone.

Change is hard. Even good change. Fitting into a new place, settling into a different rhythm, it’s all uncomfortable at first.

That’s how life is. Even when know where we are going, change is scary. Every time. No matter how old you are. This is one of the few things in life that stays consistent.

It’s OK. These fears make us human.

In middle school, you are living in the land of transitions.

Even now, in seventh, when last year’s worries seem silly and the building feels like home, when changing classes is nothing and you don’t think twice about opening your locker, when the routine is routine, your body keeps on changing.

You are in between who you were and who you will be. But, it’s OK. You will not feel this way forever.

If I could go back and talk to my 7th grade self I’d tell her what I’m telling you now. I’d also tell her this:

Middle school is about beginning to figure it out. Beginning to figure you out. Nothing will be more valuable in this life than knowing who you are and being okay with her.

Work as hard as you can, but don’t worry so much about grades. Sometimes you will stumble. Sometimes you will fail. The letters on your middle school report card will have zero impact on the rest of your life. They will not go down on your permanent record. Your college admissions officer won’t give a %*#* about that “D” from the third quarter of sixth grade science.

Focus on learning how you learn. Notice when it is easiest for you to study and when it’s impossible. This is your way. Thirty years from now, this will still be your way. Nothing you learn will be more valuable, more vital to helping you succeed than understanding yourself.

Listen to the people who tell you to keep a daily planner. They know. Write things in the planner. Even when you do not want to. Especially when you do not want to. Do not lose the planner. Do all of the things in the planner.  Turn them in.

It will be harder than it sounds. If you cannot do it, ask for help.
It’s okay to need help. It’s okay that you are having a hard time doing your work. It’s not okay to let yourself fail because are afraid to tell someone you are failing.

Remember this. Now and forever. It will always be OK to need help. It will never be OK to let yourself fail because you are too embarrassed to ask.

In the summer between 7th and 8th grades you will be at your best friend’s house with a couple of other kids. Do not spend several hours prank calling your neighbor with these kids. Your neighbor is a cop. No good can come of this.

Also, it’s mean. Don’t be mean.

And don’t spend your 8th grade lunch periods sitting with a girl who does not like you. Throwing her empty lunch sack away for her every day will not make her your friend. You have nothing in common. She does not make you laugh. You are not interested in the things she talks about.

There are people who make you laugh, people who get you, people who talk about things you like to talk about. These are your people. Find them.
Sit next to them. Do not worry if they are weird.

The sooner you are good with your weirdness, the happier you will be.

It took me almost 40 years to be OK with myself, Roxie.

Don’t wait so long.

Be good with yourself now.

And use your planner.



P.S. – For you, dear parents, a few practical resources to help you get your kiddo ready:

How to Get Kids Organized for Middle School 

Middle School Confidential Books and Apps

PBS: It’s My Life

Making the Move to Middle School

More from Holly Goodman

How to Connect with Your Older Kids Through Books

Summer is Long, Pace Yourself: How to Survive Your Tween’s Summer Vacation

On Kids’ and Independence: Are We Parenting to Our Kids’ Past Instead of Our Present?

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