Kids: 5 Things to Know about Middle School

A MiddleWeb Blog

I’m pleased to introduce my daughter, Zoey Chandler. This past year, she started 6th grade in the same middle school where I work, and it was an eye-opening experience for me to see my world through her eyes.

Over and over, I was surprised by her “takes” on things: fights in the cafeteria were exciting, fire drills boring, and square dancing fun – which was especially shocking given her sheer hatred of physical education class. The first school dance was no big deal, but anxiety that no one would decorate her locker for her birthday was intense. (Thankfully, her good friend pulled through and it was decorated!)

This is her first published blog, and I think you’re going to want to hear more of her musings about being in the middle of the middle. She’d love your feedback, of course, so leave your thoughts in the comments.

By Zoey Chandler

This year, I’m going into seventh grade, and I can’t believe 6th went by so fast. Coming up from elementary, 6th grade is a surprise because as soon as you get into your rhythm, in, let’s say, November, it’s time for Christmas break, and then state tests, and really the year goes by so fast.

It’s also a surprise because it’s not like anything you would think, for the most part. I have a friend going into 6th grade this year, and I found myself saying to her, “really, this is not that hard, but this is SO different.” So I’d thought I’d share five things that I wish I had known going into sixth grade.

1. You can probably wear anything you want to gym class.

I am VERY opposed to gym class. I’m not sporty, so that’s stressful enough, AND I hate wearing shorts. I’m warming up to them now that it’s summer, but I just do not like shorts. So, finding what to wear during gym class is stressful.

In my school, we have five or six gym classes before you actually change and get active. It’s about two weeks worth of basically study hall. The class before we started real gym we talked about the rules. No jean shorts, no shorts too short (above your fingertips), no leggings, even sporty ones, and you must wear sneakers with good grip.

Well, next class, I walked in there, dreading the fact that I was wearing shorts. They were below my fingertips. But guess what, it was a sea of underwear shorts, some sport leggings, old sneakers, and even some jean shorts. That’s when I realized that you honestly can wear most anything to gym class.

Sometimes teachers overemphasize the rules to scare people, but nothing is as serious as it sounds at the beginning of the year.

2. Don’t stay in study hall.

This may sound weird, but follow me here. I had study hall during quarters 3 and 4, at 12:26-1:08. I play the violin, and also sing, so I had the option to go to the practice room, if I had a pass from my music teacher. My friend Ella and I both played violin and sang, and we had the same study hall. We would both get passes and go down there.

Let me tell you, it was one of the best parts of my day when we practiced together. She was one part in orchestra and I was the other. And the same in chorus. Our teachers were awesome, so we got music passes to go down and sing if we wanted, and we really learned off each other.

Another option is the library. If you have work to do, or you want to read, go there! C’mon, it’s air conditioned!!! I know some people have lots of work to do, but if you don’t, don’t just stay in study hall, get moving.

3. Keep your locker happy.

Your locker is your home away from home, so make it your happy place! It doesn’t take much money to decorate. Hang up pictures, good test grades, and happy quotes.

I have a “locker ladder” to help organize, and a whole shelf is for my stuff like snacks, gum, or lipgloss.

Also, weird side note, but if you have been told that your hallway is cleaning out lockers at, let’s say, 2:00, then clean yours MOSTLY out at some other time, like a bit between classes. This means that you will be quick, and if it’s really a mess, you won’t be embarrassed. This is a lifesaver for me.

4. Make good friends with your teachers.

They don’t always say they do, but teachers often (slash, always) have students they prefer to others. This isn’t a cheaty kind of tip, it’s good hearted. If you are kind to your teachers, and make friends with them, when you are in a moment of trouble, they will help you.

My home skills teacher last year loved me, and she was my favorite teacher as well. If I ever needed a pass, which was not often, she would give it to me without explanation. If you’re good in their class, they will repay you.

5. Discover your willing full friends.

I didn’t make any friends in my home room in 6th grade, except for one. All my friends were in 7th or 8th grade because I was involved in theater, and not many 6th graders were. So I had a bunch of friends, we just didn’t see each other much, except for rehearsal.

I was much different from the other kids in my 6th grade class, so I had a really hard time. However, I learned that there are always people willing to be your friends. You may not find your BEST friend but you will find a friend.

This year I found a lot of theatre friends who were extroverted and bubbly and not so much like me, but they were so kind and willing to be my friend that it didn’t matter. Just find someone willing to talk to you and take advantage of it.

Oh… you’re teachers.

So, you may be asking, why am I telling you this? Well, as a teacher, if you know all these things, then you can help your students find their way. It’s not just what teachers typically know about their students, and 6th grade has many nuances that you would never guess. Maybe if you can share these tips with your students or simply help them along, you can make it all the more easy for a nervous student.


Zoey Chandler is 12 years old, going into the seventh grade, and loves school. She writes: “I love to act in theatre productions, like this year’s The Lion King, as well as Mystery At Shady Acres. I recently began a babysitting business called SuperKids Babysitting. Fun fact about me: my middle name is Rain, which is also my mom’s middle name.

“I’m a Buffalo NY girl, so I love the snow, and thunder and lightning storms. I like to cuddle up with a good book, such as A Series of Unfortunate Events, or my current read, Pretties. I love all things stationary and supplies, and school/learning. I’m excited to be writing for MiddleWeb.”

NOTE FROM THE EDITORS (January 2021): We love all the students who have contributed in the comments. If you drop by, be sure to share what you think and anything you have personally learned about going to middle school. You can help future generations! :-)

Amber Chandler

Amber Chandler is a National Board Certified middle school teacher and the author of The Flexible SEL Classroom: Practical Ways to Build Social Emotional Learning in Grades 4-8 (2018) and The Flexible ELA Classroom (2017). Amber blogs regularly for ShareMyLesson and Getting Smart, contributes to AMLE Magazine, and provides NBCT candidate support for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Follow Amber on Twitter @MsAmberChandler and join her website Amber Chandler's Flexible Class for practical tips and resources.

34 Responses

  1. Anita says:

    So this information is critical for not only teachers to know but for parents to know. getting ready to become a new parent to a foster child this is information that I’ll have in my back pocket to help them through some tough times. good luck in your long long Endeavor of writing.

  2. Kathy says:

    I believe that this information not only will be helpful to new students,but to others as well. Thank you for caring enough to share.

  3. Lea says:

    Loved reading this and will definitely take this into account as a 7th grade teacher! Keep writing and good luck this school year!

  4. Kelly Muldowney says:

    Loved this Zoey! This is why I always pulled students in from the hallway to share their experiences . You’ve been through it now so don’t be surprised if I pull you in to share your experience! Great blog kiddo!

  5. Mary Langer Thompson says:

    Good article, Zoey! I will share this on FB .

  6. donna says:

    Great post, Zoey! I may share this with my 7th graders, because you give good advice. Thank you for sharing your ideas! ;-)

  7. Jake says:

    I think this is nice and could be helpful but most of these are dependent on the school you go to. At my school you have to wear a specific outfit for PE/athletics. I personally have not looked in my locker for months, I carry everything I need in a binder case, and I’m fine. The not staying in study hall thing is a good idea especially if you’re in electives that require extra practice and time (Debate, orchestra, band, etc.) Making friends with teachers can be a good idea but teachers were never really on my case because I was quiet and kept my grades up. All in all this could be very helpful to a kid going into middle school.

  8. Aliya says:

    this is really good for a first blog!

  9. Dad says:

    Thank you, this will help my daughter.

  10. Ahshawn says:

    Thank u for showing us this story of ur year in six grade am going to six grade actually so I’ll use this in my years in six grade thank u :D

  11. Jan says:

    Your suggestions are helpful and your writing is outstanding! I have taught 9th grade for 23 years and have had only a few who could express themselves as well as you. I will be making a big change next week — teaching 6th grade, so I need all the help I can get. Thanks again for your insight.

  12. Apollo11crusier19 says:

    I’m going to middle school next year so this is really helpful Thank you!

  13. naiomi says:

    I’m going to middle school 6th grade. I am so nervous about this. This has been an amazing article. Thx.

  14. Kelsey says:

    Hi! Thank you sooooo Much! This is really Really REALLY helpful! I’m kinda nervous because I’m going to middle school this year. I’m Really nervous about changing Clothes at middle school. But you really helped me out! Thank you so much! You are super Helpful and great! – Kelsey

  15. Makayla says:

    I am about to leave 5th grade and I like to plan ahead. I was looking for some things that could help me and this was perfect. I appreciate you helping me.

  16. Sarah says:

    Hey I’m going to middle school next year and this really helped me know what to do and what’s going to happen when I get there. Great job on the article!

  17. bella says:

    hi im going into 6th grade next year and i thought it was the end of the world when i heard my school was moving 6th grade to middle school because i didnt know what to do or how to do it. But now i know and i feel really better – thank you.

  18. Samantha says:

    Hi I’m Samantha and I need some help I’m going into middle school this year and I like to be prepared so I would like a bit more tips

  19. Alyssa Rainey says:

    i’m going into middle school so this was a help but my sisters friend is going into 8th grade so i got some tips from her

  20. Soria H. says:

    I’m going into 8th grade and just found this! because of Covid I have never had a locker. We might get them this year. Did you have a full length or short locker? The ones at my school are full length. I don’t know if i will decorate it or find the time to! What should I do? Anyone with ideas, please help!

  21. Ken says:

    I love love it this will help me when i move on to sixth grade tomorrow.

  22. T. Daniels says:

    We just came across this blog and I shared it with my 5th graders. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and tips.
    Student Question: “why do we have to make friends with the teachers if they have to help you anyways?”

  23. Jelisa says:

    So I’m starting middle school and thanks for the tips but something in my school is that we are having the largest amount of 6th graders joining band in history at that school and literally EVERYONE in my class at elementary who is joining band is doing clarinet so I can do saxophone. Thanks for the help.

  24. Maci says:

    As someone who is going into middle school soon, it was really nerve-racking for me. This really helped me to calm down and realize it may not be all that bad! : )

  25. ClassroomPK says:

    It amazes me, and I feel happy that a young student has written and shared this post. Children about the same age can relate and get good ideas about some essential things while leveling up in school.

    • MiddleWeb says:

      Thanks for your comment! It amazes us, too. Since this post first appeared in August 2017 it’s had more than 34,000 pageviews. We’re pretty sure most of those reads were from students who were feeling a little edgy about the transition to middle school. We hope middle school educators are paying attention here!

  26. nathan says:

    going to 6th

  27. Cathey says:

    Hi Zoey! I’m writing a middle-grade novel and my main character is a 7th grader. This blog really helps me “get into the mind” of thinking like a middle schooler. I appreciate you for being so clear & honest, as it will help me write a better book. I know you’re older now, but I bet the info is still valid! Thank you so much.

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