This blog was co-authored by Dr. Lana Snear and Ms. Libba Tullos.
As we contemplated this topic our hearts longed for a simple list of tips to provide for Middle School students and their families, along with a word of Scripture from the Lord to guide the walk. Honestly, we hoped the scripture He provided would be one of those uplifting and sappy love scriptures, but that was not to be the case. However, we can’t think of a passage of scripture or word from the Lord more fitting than the one He placed on our hearts for our Middle School families.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Now, we know it sounds awful to equate middle school with suffering but if we are going to be real here then let’s be real. Middle school is tough!! It is full of struggles, disappointments, and hurts. Let’s acknowledge the struggles first and then walk together with the Lord to come to a place of perseverance, character, and hope.
Be Prepared to Struggle but Courageous Enough to Persevere
One of the reasons middle school is difficult is because there is a sudden desire for more independence, and yet a new awareness of your weaknesses. For the first time, you want to do the driving, you are expected to do the driving, you are pushed to do the driving, but yet you can’t see over the steering wheel, you don’t know the rules of the road, and your passengers are yelling at you. How is this ever going to be successful? It's not. And, more importantly, it's not meant to be.
Middle school is not meant to be a time of success but rather a time of struggle, because struggle brings greater growth than success. So get in that driver's seat. Anticipate the struggle and then work with all your might not only to stay in the seat, but also to endure, persevere, and grow in new ways. The biggest challenge is that people give up far too easily and refuse to push through. If you abandon the struggle, then you never grow. If fear prevents you from getting in the driver's seat or refusing to put the car in gear then you will never get where you are going. Struggles can be scary and bring anxiety, so vow to let your courage be bigger than your struggle. Never give up, but rather seek the tools needed to overcome: ask for help, reach out to your teachers, your parents, your mentors; trust the Lord and what He is accomplishing in your life. He does not desire to harm you but to give you hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
Battles are not won in retreats, so prepare yourself for the fight. Start by finding at least one person you can count on for true support and guidance. Then, when the homework seems like too much, don’t ignore it, talk to that person or your teacher, work on your time management skills. When you feel alone and unaccepted, don’t hide in your room or eat alone, seek new friends, turn to the Lord. When your anxiety is escalating, don’t run from what is causing it, work to bring calm to your body, and believe in yourself. No one plans to fail so make middle school a time of bravery rather than a time of failure. Embrace the struggle. It is real. Prepare yourself to accept it, find comfort in it, and trust that you are courageous enough to persevere through it and grow.
Give Yourself Permission
Thriving in middle school includes giving yourself permission to grow and grow some more. No one entering 5th grade has it all together and no one leaving 8th does either. Give yourself permission to try new things, meet new people, admit you need help, and ask lots and lots of questions. Give yourself permission to work a math problem out on the board. Give yourself permission to ask someone if you can sit with them at lunch. Give yourself permission to tell a teacher you need help with something. Give yourself permission to wear your hair up or down if you want, try out for a sport you've never played before, or sing in the talent show. You are allowed to GROW in middle school. Give yourself permission.
Choose Your Mirror
From the moment you are born you are striving to discover who you are; what gives you value and purpose. Thankfully, God carefully placed mirrors in your world to reveal your reflection. From birth to late elementary your parents were that mirror. We can remember as young parents praising our children for every little thing, “Wow, you’re so fast,” “You’re the smartest kid I know,” “God has a great plan for your life,” “No one is as handsome as you.” Parents freely and fondly reflect the wonder of their kids in these early years. But in middle school, everything changes, the mirror shifts, and the reflection isn’t always kind. During middle school, you begin to look to your peers to gain a reflection of who you are. There has never been a more distorted, carnival-type mirror than the reflection of your peers. Middle school peers will never reflect your true value, and worth to you!!! They will always reveal your faults over your strengths. Additionally, you look to social media to discover your value and worth. You long for likes, streaks, and followers, you let your peers decide if your hair looks good, or your shoes are cool. You even let others decide who you talk to and what you eat.
Be aware of the dangers of choosing your peers to reflect who you are for they too are struggling with a faulty view of the world. Instead, seek a mirror that will reflect your greatness. First, look to the Lord to reveal who you are. He shares so clearly that He made you in His image, so who is He? The answer to this question further reveals who you are. Seek scripture to discover how He wonderfully and uniquely created you for a purpose. Ignore the purpose of others but seek your own purpose, and rejoice in how He has knit you together. Second, look closely in your own bathroom mirror, ask yourself who you are, and who you want to be. Never stop finding greatness and beauty in yourself. See your strengths, your talents, your physical beauty. Rejoice in these things. Third, listen carefully to the voice of those that have wisdom, such as your parents, teachers, and older mentors. Accept their assessment of who you are with greater truth than who your peers say you are. Finally, throw away the mirrors of contempt, avoid social media, avoid the opinions of others, and avoid the views of the world.
There wasn't a mistake made in Heaven when God made you exactly the way He did and He's a very creative God. Dream big, young scholars! Without dreamers, we would still be drawing stick figures on cave walls and wearing saber-tooth tiger skins for clothing. Ask yourself some questions today… What gifts do I have that could make a difference here at Legacy? Can I serve on the worship team? Can I meet with the facilities crew to suggest new ideas for our building? Can I volunteer to help struggling students with homework? Can I create graphics or promotional materials from scratch for Houses? Can I lend my smile to a student or teacher who needs encouragement? Can I throw a Birthday party for someone?! How can I contribute around here over the next four years?
Our brains are inefficient machines. We sometimes make poor assumptions, misjudge those around us and come to conclusions about people that are based on emotional whims. One of the coolest opportunities we have in middle school this year is to celebrate those around us instead of feeling the need to compete with them. There is no “in crowd” unless we create one so let's throw out kindness like it's confetti and play nice. Let's open ourselves up to the possibility that those we're in a class with or sitting in the stands with are placed in our life for a reason and let's see them from day one as God's masterpiece. Let's give one another the benefit of the doubt. Let's walk across rooms and invite people to sit with us or let's ask others if we can sit with them. Play Nice.
Rejoice in Hope
I know for the Lord the creation of the world wasn’t really a struggle, because of course He is God. Regardless, He did sit back and rejoice in all that He had done. But for you, as you are becoming all He created you to be and working through the struggles to grow into that amazing individual, it will often seem as if there is little to rejoice over. Be intentional in your rejoicing. As you persevere and develop courage, rejoice!! As you explore your mirror and find who you are, rejoice. As you dream big and give yourself permission to try new things, rejoice. As you play nice and make a difference in the lives of others, rejoice. Again we say rejoice: in your successes, your accomplishments, large and small, the discovery of your strengths and uniqueness (even when they don’t fit in with the norm), the love the Lord has for you personally, and the plan He has for your life. Rejoice in it all. In your rejoicing, you will begin to realize who you truly are, a child of God, and then you will be filled with hope for your future. Rejoice!!
Middle school is a time of greatness. A time when you will begin to become all you were created to be. Middle school is where hope is found.
Libba Tullos is currently a 5th-grade teacher at Legacy. She has been inspiring and encouraging leaders from all walks of life for over 18 years. She has a unique ability to weave her realities into the realities of others, engaging her audiences with authenticity and empathy. Her love for people and for the Lord is contagious and mediocre is not in her vocabulary. Libba has two beautiful daughters, ages 14 & 17.
Dr. Lana Snear currently serves as the South Campus Counselor at Legacy Christian Academy. She came to Legacy in 2018 with previous experience working in private practice, as well as other private and public school districts. Dr. Snear received her Doctorate degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University. She holds a license in psychology, school psychology, and a certification in professional Christian counseling. She has been married for 30 years, has 4 children, and a new granddaughter. She loves the relationships she has gotten to build with the students and families at Legacy. Her over-arching goal is that each student would know they are ‘seen' and have great value. KNOWTICE OTHERS=Notice others + Know Others