So, your child is in seventh grade.
I don't say that to frighten you - well, maybe I do. Seventh grade is one of the most significant times in a child's development, with physical, intellectual, social, family and academic challenges all happening at once. In other words, it's insane!
It's a buckle-up your seat belt kind of year.
So, buckle up, and let's discuss how you can best prepare your child and yourself for the strange and wonderful trip known as Grade 7!
YOUR CHILD WILL BE ABDUCTED BY ALIENS
When I was teaching 7th graders, my Back-To-School Night shpiel initially focused on the new level of skills the students would face. After all, this was their first year out of the coddling elementary grades, k - 6.
7th grade is the first year of secondary school. The work gets harder and more sophisticated. In English, kids are expected to infer deeper insights from their reading, make real world and bigger connections, and continue to use the text for their evidence while considering oppositional points of view.
They had to learn to cite their sources. That means they had to take notes as they read and researched. That means they had to be ORGANIZED!
Have you ever heard of a 7th grade boy that was organized? If so, point him towards the Guinness Book of World Records, because he is the first!
In math, kids went from adding, subtracting and multiplying fractions to algebra! ALGEBRA!! Negative integers and other crazy stuff. It blew their brains apart!
At the same time, boys are realizing that the girls have different body parts that start to look good to them and the girls blossom into full on bitches!
After two years of teaching 7th grade, I realized what I was dealing with. These weren't 12 and 13 year old boys; they were electrons, bouncing off the walls propelled by inner and outer forces that were completely beyond their comprehension.
Simply put, the 7th grade boy is abducted by aliens. Their body remains, but their mind is gone, controlled by forces unseen and undetectable. They're wild. But - and it's a key BUT - they can be controlled if you know what to look for.
The 7th grade girl is the horrific witnessing of the coming of age development from cute little girl to mean bitch. Sorry, Mom, sorry, Dad, but it's true. Girls in 7th grade learn that they have a power called 'mean' and they wield it like a new favorite toy. 7th grade girls are vicious. They move in packs. They attack anyone, anywhere.
They will eat their own!
Meanwhile, the 7th grade boys remain blissfully clueless, lost in their alien-controlled-silliness.
Consequently, that Back-To-School-Night talk changed. I stopped talking about the curriculum, stopped talking about secondary level work, about the homework, and the growing responsibility of the the students. Instead, I took a poll:
"Who here in the room has had a child in 7th grade before?" I asked. Usually about half the parents' hands went up.
"Okay, and who in the room has never had a child in 7th grade before?" The other half of the room's hands went up.
"Those of you who are new to being a seventh grade parent, meet your support group - those who have been down this road before. Pair up. Find a buddy, a sponsor, whatever you need to call it. You are going on a rough, and rocky ride."
All the parents who have had 7th graders before are nodding their heads vigorously, looking down at the newbie parents with both pity and empathy.
One of the best defenses you can have to prepare for the 7th grade year is to help your child be organized.
If they haven't before, 7th grade will be the first year that your child will have a different teacher for each subject. As a teacher, I can promise you that most teaching staff DO NOT communicate with each other about what they expect from their students to be prepared.
One teacher wants a 3-ring binder with pockets
Another teacher wants folders.
One teacher wants everything written in pen
The other only wants pencils
And still another will only deliver their lessons online, so kids have to type everything.
Highlighters, pencils, black pens, blue pens, loose-leaf paper, notebooks, journals, protractors, your own calculator, trig calculator's, backpacks, file folders, keep everything in your locker, store everything in the classroom, study every night, homework every night, reading every night.
It goes on and on. And it can be very overwhelming, especially for kids, like my own son, who find being organized a gigantic chore.
The solution: Find what works best for your child. This may take some trial and error. Go shopping for the right book bag together. Some kids love pockets and they help the child's mind compartmentalize what's in each pocket of their backpack.
I'm an adult, and I still love lots of pockets on my backpack (Yes, I have a backpack - don't judge me!). It helps me organize my mind.
If you can fit more than one subject into a binder, do it. It saves so much time, and space. Carrying around four or six binders for all their subjects can get very heavy. Add the textbooks that teachers want shlepped home and back to school each day, and suddenly, your little boy is working like a hiking sherpa's pack mule.
I've seen little kids, walking half bent down the halls of school, just trying to carry their heavy backpacks. They look like little old men and women, bent and aging and rickety.
Some industrious kids used the carry-on size suitcases with roller wheels and the extendable handle. Of course, some schools ban the luggage option claiming that their hallways aren't big enough; but they're just fine letting kids strain their backs every day, during major growth periods. Just another example of how the business of education is retarded.
Fight the stupid systems that schools put into place to keep the flow of children through the hallways a priority over their physical health.
And here is a hint: any school that emphasizes traffic flow over physical health concerns is a school with poor behavior management. YOU DON'T HAVE TO MANAGE THE TRAFFIC FLOW OF HAPPY, PEACEFUL KIDS WHO AREN'T LUGGING TWICE THEIR WEIGHT IN MATERIALS LIKE DONKEYS.
There are many kinds. One of the best I ever saw was designed like a fishing tackle box, but small enough for a backpack.
Get one that works for your child.
Do not - I repeat - DO NOT let your child carry their pencils, pens and markers loosely. They will disappear quickly. I guarantee it.
IF YOUR CHILD'S SCHOOL ISSUES COMPUTERS AND CALCULATORS
You will receive a letter explaining your child's obligation to not misuse, damage or lose their loaned device. You will be forced to sign it before your child can obtain the loaned device. They will quote you costs for repair to damaged devices. DO NOT BELIEVE THE PRICE!
Something happens to that device on loan YOU go get it fixed somewhere for WAY LESS EXPENSE! Trust me on this. The schools will overprice repair. Probably someone's relative owns he repair company and is making a profit by aligning with the school.
I wish I was wrong but this happens.
ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Kids don't know what's mean or not yet. And 7th graders are right in the eye of the testing-the-waters-of-appropriateness shit-storm. So, just don't.
It goes something like this:
"Mom, can I have a snapchat account?"
Keep it simple. You can explain later.
More on 7th grade insights as the year progresses.
Hi. My name is Stephen Tesher. I am a novelist, screenwriter, educator, and father. I've authored three books, staged numerous plays and optioned screenplays, articles, and this blog.