One of my responsibilities as the school counselor is teaching the 5th grade study skills class.  Part support group and part instruction, this is a class dedicated to teaching good work habits and developing management styles that enable my students to meet the new challenges of Middle School.

We begin with the premise that they, as students, need to understand clearly what is being asked of them.  We work as detectives and reporters, gathering facts and some opinions.   This helps us all start on the same page and work toward the common goal of thriving in Middle School.  Next, we work on developing systems which reliably and consistently help them meet classroom expectations.  As they design their plans, we consider differences in learning styles, temperaments, and skill sets.  Step three consists of practicing and making adjustments when mistakes happen or things don’t go as planned.  I teach strategies and techniques, but am careful to remind the students that there is no “right way,” but rather, a way that works best for them.  We do a lot of self-assessment as they try out different methods.

One of the more important things we talk about is how essential missteps can be because of what they teach us… especially during the middle school years.  For sure, there is an art
to identifying what isn’t working, admitting it, looking at one’s options, and then making adjustments to make things better.  Once they understand that missteps are going to happen and that they are normal, it lessens some of their fears (which in the beginning of 5th grade, all seem to involve the many ways they might mess up)!

Study Skills class drew to a close last week.  Although I will miss teaching it, I know that
my students are ready to move forward with the skills they have learned.  The last task I ask them to perform was a “note to self.”  In the note, I asked them to describe themselves and their transition from Lower School to Middle School, the challenges they faced, and how they met them.  I will return their letters to them when they’re making the next big amove into 9th grade.  When questioned as to why they were given this particular assignment, I told them it’s because they will enjoy looking back and remembering how well they tackled their transition to Middle School.  Really, it is my way of reminding them that they can manage any mistakes when they happen — because they do — and turn them into a positive experience.