Family / Parenting / School

Assigning Hope in Middle School

Franca IMG_1612I never needed a reason to get good grades in school. Doing well was reason enough for me. My parents congratulated me for every A, and they received the news of the occasional average grade with, “…as long as you tried your best.” I don’t recall talking about my academic performance very often because they never had to worry.

Our older son is bright enough, but he lacks motivation. He does not care if he does well on tests, rushing to finish instead of taking his time and checking his work. When we review mistakes after the fact, he explains where he went wrong and is content knowing that he understands the topics at hand.

His organizations skills are deplorable. Papers are shoved into his backpack without care and papers that he does manage to put in folders are dog-eared and crumpled. He writes down his assignments in a planner, but looking at his handwriting, his words may as well have been written in Sanskrit. Much of the time, not even he can read his own scribblings.

This year, our boy started middle school. I have been stressed out about middle school since he was in kindergarten. Nothing unsettles a parent more than listening to all the horror stories of what’s to come from other parents who are in the shit. “Middle school is ALL about organization!” says one. “If you can’t stay on top of your assignments, you’re pretty much screwed,” says another. “You know, I have the name of a great organizational specialist who works with children if you need some help,” one mother offers. “I mean, you really want to create good habits now before it’s too late.” “I just might,” I say with a cracked voice.

When he came home from his first day of middle school, I waited anxiously to hear about his day. I prepared myself for the usual routine. Mom goes through backpack. Mom pulls out papers and asks him to please keep them in folders in the future. Mom tries to read assignments but cannot make heads nor tails of them. Mom inquires about assignments and child shrugs. Mom sighs and hopes for the best.

On that day, his first day of middle school, my son gave me a huge hug and informed me that we had much to discuss.

“Mom, here is the packet from all the teachers with lists of school supplies I need for each class. Here’s what I’m going to need. I’d like a locker shelf to make room for all the books and folders. Also, I should have a morning binder and an afternoon binder because we can’t go to our lockers until lunchtime, and I’ll need to be able to carry everything at once. I should probably put one of those clips in my assignment notebook so that I can open it to the right page. Can we review the supply list so that we can figure out what we already have and what I’ll need? I have to have all of my supplies by Tuesday.”

I am sure that more than a beat passed before I replied. I was in shock, you see. My almost-12-year-old was speaking words to me that I had never heard – words about organization, preparation, initiative, and deadlines. I may have felt the beginnings of a tear at the corner of my right eye.

Now, I know enough not to get too excited. Old habits die hard and all. But now I have hope. And that feeling that he may actually care is going to get me through middle school – or at least the second week.

Tags: , ,


  1. Love it! So great! Unfortunately my 11 yo has a two week rotating block schedule so the organization is huge. He told me, however, that he made an appointment with the guidance counselor for tomorrow at lunch to
    Work on how to organize his binders etc, so I’ll take that for what it’s worth! We all have our strengths and organization is NOT his!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.