Growing through the Pandemic: Lessons Learned by our Middle Schoolers

by Kelli Debikey, Middle School teacher

Hello Harmony, 

Goodness…middle school is tough! I have said for many years that I teach middle school because I never let go of my teenage angst, and this year maybe more so than ever.  It is a tough year! I cannot tell you how much I want to slam my computer shut every time I have to ask a student to show their face (just for a minute), or yell into the pandemic abyss when I have to send another email or text to remind students of an assignment or to attend class. But I don’t, other teachers don’t, and even the students don’t (at least not every time). We acknowledge that this is our time to learn hard lessons. These middle school students are learning lessons far beyond their age and expectation. They are learning hard and soft skills that we always spend time on in middle school, but this year they are really getting the opportunity to apply them. Soft skills are those skills that relate to how you work with and interact with others. These are the types of skills that employers look for. For example, our students are working on:

  • Time management: Imagine you had assignments due for every class but your support network of teachers and friends was not there day by day or hour by hour to encourage, remind, and support you. 
    • This is what our students are experiencing, and yet they still get most of those assignments in. It’s not perfect, but goodness they are trying. 
    • Managing work space in your house so you have the set up you need to do school work.
  • Interpersonal bonds: Talking with many of my students I have learned that they have stepped up to help their families and strengthened their bonds with family members. 
    • They have discovered that their siblings are not so bad and can be fun to hang out with. 
    • They are helping with chores around the house without being asked. 
    • They are learning how to socialize through a computer. 
    • They have found new ways to create bonds with far away friends and family. 
  • General problem solving: Every day has its own challenges that are different from our pre-Covid daily challenges and yet those old challenges are still there as well. 
    • Class can be canceled at any time because of internet issues.
    •  A student cannot attend because of internet issues. 
    • Keeping all your electronics properly charged. 

Then there are the hard skills that students are focusing on. We try to build these particular learnable skills in our curriculum here at Harmony through service jobs, independent projects, graduation projects, class trips, and clean up jobs. However, being at home has really helped students see that these are very important and applicable skills to their everyday lives both now and in the future. 

  • Students needed to quickly learn new sets of computer skills: 
    • Zoom
    • Google Classroom
    • Mosa Mack Science
    • Out of Eden 
    • Scanning documents with a phone or printer
    • Uploading documents
    • Computer Cameras
    • Quality online research resources
  • Helping with housework and helping their parents
    • Supporting parents who are working from home
    • Building a new deck for the backyard
    • Working in the garden or creating a new garden
    • Watching younger siblings
    • Cooking meals

This is just the start. I think that teenagers who are living through this current time are going to walk away from this year being more prepared for their future. They are being forced to practice these skills before they normally would. I think they are going to be a more successful set of adults because they already have this practice time. I am very proud of my students this year and how hard they are working to overcome these challenges. They aren’t perfect and neither am I, but we are all working hard to support each other and to do better each day. This is what I remind myself when I get frustrated and want to slam the computer. We are not just all doing our best, but better than our best. We are learning so many new things at once. Maybe I am finally letting go of that teenage angst. If that means more patience for my students and being able to see the hard work despite the bumps along the way, then I am good with that. Thank you to all in our community for your support and encouragement. 

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