The natural transition from child into teenager is unchartered territory for many parents, which can create uncertainty and even fear. As a middle school teacher whose own sons are in this phase of life, I have consulted some of my teaching colleagues, other trusted parents and former students for wise parenting advice. Together, we have compiled a list of tips for parents to help their children navigate this transition through adolescence.
1. Don’t be afraid of failure.
Middle School is a great time and place to fail. It seems counterintuitive of what we want for our kids, but the consequences of failing are not as great in middle school as in high school. It should be a time in which the parents are pulling off and letting their student navigate through conflict and tension. It is such an opportunity for them to grow. Independence builds confidence. Don’t remove the speed bumps because it prevents that head-on collision down the road. We want to prepare the road for our child, but we need to prepare the child for the road. It can be painful. It requires us as parents to have a posture of surrender to the Lord and not control, which is hard. Let them mess up because it helps them learn.
Last year, Laura and Tim Turner decided that ECS was the right place for their four elementary-aged children, Eli and Lucy (5th grade), Anna (2nd grade) and Jonathan (junior kindergarten).
The Turner children were all in the Germantown Municipal School District schools the year before. Tim said, “We actually weren’t actively looking to move schools. We were ultimately drawn in by the leadership, teachers, families and faith. We felt like ECS was so uniquely gifted in those areas, and we wanted to be a part of that.”
Laura added, “The Lord confirmed our decision in different ways throughout the year. We were able to see all four of our children flourish spiritually, academically and socially. It’s such a blessing to have teachers that pour truth and wisdom into the lives of our children.”
Six years ago, Coach Willie Jenkins came to ECS on a path few saw coming. But perhaps no one was more surprised than the coach himself.
“Coach Willie” as he is known to everyone, was biding his time during the offseason, waiting to return to play professional basketball overseas. His discipler Roy “Soup” Campbell, executive director at local Eikon Ministries, hooked him up with a gig teaching basketball skills at Memphis Athletic Ministries (commonly known as “MAM”) in the inner city where he charged neighborhood kids admission to his clinics with a memorized Bible verse instead of money.
ECS dad Travis Slater caught wind of this local talent charging Manna in lieu of dough, and asked if his daughter and her teammate could train under him too. After the training camp that summer, Slater admitted that he knew Coach Willie wanted to play overseas or coach young men, but he asked if he would consider coaching his daughter’s eighth grade school team.
Initially, Coach Willie bristled at the idea of coaching middle school girls. But his wife, Eryka, knew better.
She knew her husband enjoyed watching women’s basketball on TV because they are fundamentally sound.
Mrs. Jenkins said, ‘You are always watching it. It will help you become a better coach.’”
In the past 30 years, employment in STEM occupations has grown 79%, increasing from 9.7 million to 17.3 million jobs, outpacing overall U.S. job growth, which is only expected to climb in the future, especially as companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google continue to dominate the economic landscape. Educating our youth on the disciplines of STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, is imperative to prepare students for tomorrow’s professions. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “If we want a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers have the ability to understand and solve some of the complex challenges of today and tomorrow, and to meet the demands of the dynamic and evolving workforce, building students' skills, content knowledge, and fluency in STEM fields is essential.”
This increased emphasis on STEM acumen served as an opportunity for Assistant Head of School & Academic Dean Jenny Shorten to redefine her search for a new upper school math teacher two years ago.
“The exponential growth in technology today requires us to prepare our learners for that world that is dominated by Science, Technology, Engineering and Math."
The exponential growth in technology today requires us to prepare our learners for that world that is dominated by Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Therefore, it was critical we added someone to our math department who understood this evolving paradigm. Dr. Stevens met and exceeded these criteria.”