Learning and Leading
One of SMSA’s great strengths is its middle-school program. In the vast majority of area schools, children at this grade level leave the schools with which they’ve become familiar and start again elsewhere as the youngest students.
We have the privilege of keeping our students under our care for three more crucial years, years in which they are simultaneously nurtured and challenged in a place where they are known and loved. During this critical period of change in a child’s life, our middle-school students benefit from the stability and familiarity of their surroundings as well as from the special privileges and responsibilities that come with being the oldest students in the school.
|According to ‘Time’ magazine, many school districts, citing an increase in behavioral problems and a decrease in academic achievement levels, are abandoning the separate “middle school” model and are moving back to the traditional K-8 model that SMSA has always employed. “Ironically,” the article notes, “K-8 schools are in some ways better positioned to implement the ideas of the middle school movement. Not only do these more intimate schools tend to foster strong teacher-student relationships, but they often put their older students in positions where they can exercise judgment and leadership.” — Time, August 2005|
The middle-school program at SMSA flows smoothly from the elementary program. Already accustomed to changing classes for “specials,” middle-school students change classrooms all day. Students in grade 6 may choose between French or Spanish. Successful completion of our foreign language, Living Environment (Regents Biology) and accelerated math programs places students in tenth-grade level courses in their first year of high school. All middle-school students continue to participate in art, music, religion, physical education and technology classes.
Although the spirit of the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classrooms at SMSA is often lighthearted and informal, with lots of give-and-take between teacher and students, the goal is serious — academic excellence. Our energetic teachers relish the responsibility of preparing their students for high school, and students are reminded that their middle-school work will determine their high school placement.
Because they interact with smaller children at school each day, SMSA middle-school students can see for themselves how much they’ve grown, matured, and learned. Mentoring programs in reading and math allow them to act as role models to younger students, and activities such as interscholastic sports and yearbook offer them opportunities to develop leadership skills.