A Message from Dani Steele, Interim Head of Middle School | February 15
Dani Steele, Interim Head of Middle School
Dear Families, 
My oldest son, Jonah, is four. Well, four and half; he would be very upset if I didn't mention that half. He is in Junior Kindergarten this year. One of the greatest gifts our school has given him is the belief in himself that he "can do hard things." I have seen him come back from the brink of tearfully throwing his Legos across the room with a quiet reminder of "Jonah, you can do hard things." I have even heard him take a deep breath and whisper "I can do hard things" to himself at the pediatrician's office. Lately, I have been wondering about how we, as educators and parents of middle school students, can help remind and nurture that same self-confidence and resilience amidst academic and social pressure. 
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and to persevere in the face of challenges. It is a critical skill for success in school and in life. While some children seem to be naturally resilient, others may need a little more support to develop this skill. 
At school, we encourage a can-do attitude by emphasizing a growth mindset and discussing models of resilience. We try to provide as many opportunities as we can to let students take academic risks and try new things, even if it means making mistakes. As students progress through middle school, we help them learn to prioritize their time and manage their own schedules. We encourage them to solve all sorts problems on their own, with their trusted adults cheering them on. 
As I look towards student and advisor-led conferences in March, I see a wonderful opportunity for parents and teachers to reinforce these concepts with our students. First and foremost, student-led conferences allow your child to take ownership of their learning and reflect on their academic strengths and areas for growth. By leading the conference, your child will have the opportunity to showcase their work and explain their thinking, which can help them develop important communication skills. Further, student-led conferences promote a sense of accountability, responsibility for academic progress, and ultimately independence. Your child can practice setting, communicating, and working towards goals with a greater sense of purpose and determination. Student-led conferences can seem kind of scary to some students, but isn't that just another opportunity to overcome something challenging?
Together as parents and teachers, we can help our students develop a growth mindset by praising effort, persistence and learning from mistakes rather than just focusing on the outcome. We can help them reframe their negative thoughts and see setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. Through examples like student-led conferences, specific book choices, workshop models and problem-solving work times, we aim to show students that setbacks are a normal part of life and that with persistence, perseverance and a positive attitude, they can overcome anything. I encourage you to talk to your child about challenges or setbacks that you have experienced and how you overcame them. You might share stories of people who have overcome adversity and achieved success and encourage your child to emulate their resilience. 
Middle School is a critical time in your child's development when they are navigating many challenges and transitions. It can be a time of increased academic demands, social pressures and physical changes, which can be overwhelming for some students. By practicing resiliency in school and at home, students can develop the skills and mindset they need to cope with these challenges. Resiliency helps students bounce back from setbacks, develop grit and determination and maintain a positive attitude even in the face of difficulty. 
Thank goodness my son, Jonah, already believes that he "can do hard things". But, I know he will need some reminders and practice when he is fourteen and half. 

Looking for a book for Mid-Winter Break? Check out one of these middle-grade books with resilient characters!
  • The Water Bears by Kim Baker
  • Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 25th Anniversary Edition by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson
  • Real Friends by Shannon Hale and Leuyen Pham
  • When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
  • Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
  • Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk
  • Before The Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Dani Steele,
Interim Head of Middle School

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