In the United States, middle school is the period in a student’s life that takes place after elementary school and before high school. Typically, the middle school grades are 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, although some school districts include 9th grade in their middle school programs.
At this time, students are given more independence, moving to different classrooms for different subjects, which includes math, social studies, science, and language arts. Also, students are able to choose some of their class subjects.
Middle schools were created for “bridging the gap between the elementary and the high school. The faculty is organised into academic departments that operate more or less independently of one another.
It’s often a challenging time for them but can also be quite interesting and typically it’s a time of growth and change. Middle school can be an exciting time in a student’s life, as well as a difficult time. Bullying tends to peak in 6th grade, and many students find that the academic challenges of middle school are far more difficult than in elementary school. Middle schoolers can expect an increase in homework, and projects and parents should help their children develop skills of independence and responsibility, as teachers and others will expect more from them.
Students often have more opportunities available to them in middle school. Many middle schools offer after-school clubs, sports teams, and other activities to their students. In addition, many school districts allow high-achieving middle schoolers to take high school courses for credit while still in middle school.
The schools may also offer opportunities for exchange programs, or spring break adventure travel. But middle schoolers may also face numerous school rules, school dress codes, social pressures and more.
In addition to puberty, middle schoolers face a number of social challenges including bullying, making friends and dealing with other peer problems as well as peer pressure.
The child’s growth and development during the middle school years will set the stage for high school and beyond.
Monterey Middle School students and teachers playing lunchtime soccer
Ten spellers with their middle school principals in a Spelling Bee Competition
British vs American Schools
- Classes and holidays
In America, schools generally give students around 10-12 weeks of vacation. They can release students anywhere from the end of May to mid-August, or mid-June to the beginning of September.
British schools are quite different. They generally end their academic year in mid-July and begin the first week of September. This gives students about 6 weeks of a summer holiday.
However, British students receive much more time away from school during the academic year, in comparison to American students. Nearly all British schools have a half-term, one-week break in October, February and May. They also receive at least two weeks holiday over both Christmas and Easter holidays.
- Uniforms or not
American kids can wear what they want to school.
The British school uniform nearly always consists of a: blazer, jumper sweater, dress shirt, trousers (with the option of a skirt for girls). Most schools have pupils students wear a tie, regardless of gender. Students must ask a teacher’s permission if they want to remove their blazer during class if they are too hot.
Uniforms are made in the school’s designated colours.
- School buses or public transport
There are no school buses in the UK. Students use the public transportation or ask for a ride from their parents each day.
In America every student who attends a public school has the opportunity to take ‘the cheese’ to and from school. The older kids work part time jobs in an effort to buy a car so that they can transport themselves to school and other places.
4. Years spent at school
British students spend ages 5-10 in primary schools. Secondary schools have students ages 11-18. There are no middle schools, like in America. Until recently, British schools were compulsory for kids until they were only sixteen years old.
In America, students are in ‘Seventh Grade.’ British students of the same age are in ‘Year 8’. They are labelled a higher number in comparison to the US because the first year of school is called ‘Kindergarten’, which is the equivalent to ‘Year 1’ in England.
There is more unity in the British course of study. Schools (unless they are independent) must follow the National Curriculum. American school teachers experience more freedom in comparison to what they can teach and when against their British counterparts. At the end of a class period, British students must stand at their desks and wait for a teacher to say they are dismissed. In America, when the bell rings, they run.
5. Food at schools
In America students sometimes have a‘tater tot’. These are small, deep-fried grated potatoes and they’re always included on a cafeteria lunch tray, with chocolate milk, of course.
American school cafeterias are not pleasant places. For lunch, kids wait in a line to be served with pepperoni, pizza, ‘Apple sauce’ or fruit salad.
British students call their lunchroom a ‘Canteen’. They usually can choose from: ratatouille with Mediterranean Herb Couscous, vegetable Moussaka, pea and asparagus Gira sole with a Cream and Chive Sauce with Fresh Parmesan Flakes or something like that.
School children in England are absolutely forbidden to eat food in class. They are also only allowed to drink fruit juices or water. A soda is banned from a classroom. American kids enjoy Red Bull or Mountain Dew with a bag of Cheetos for breakfast in a first period class.
6. Extra-curricular activities
American students can choose from sports like football, soccer, la Crosse, hockey, swimming, tennis, track and field, baseball and basketball.
They also have events like pep rallies, where the entire school gathers in the sports gym instead of going to class. This is for seeing the football players, basketball players, cheerleaders, dance team, majorettes and band display school spirit in support of a big upcoming game.
Further, students can belong to clubs like Art, Science Olympiad, Photography, FFA (Future Farmers of America), National Honor Society, Marching Band, Chemistry Club, Chess Club, Frisbee Club, French Club, Latin Club, Interact, Debate Club, Ping Pong Club, Video Gaming Club.
In America, if kids can convince the school that their club idea is worthy, there’s room in the extra-curricular budget, and they have a faculty advisor, then they can form their group.
British kids have the perception that American schools are like those they have seen in High School Musical and Mean Girls. Thanks to Hollywood, American students are perceived to be very segregated by popularity groups like cheerleaders, football players and band geeks.
8. Cheerleading- just America
Middle school cheerleading evolved shortly after high school squads were created. In middle school, cheerleading squads serve the same purpose, and follow the same rules as high school squads. Squads cheer for basketball teams, football teams, and other sports teams in their school. Squads also compete against other local schools from the area. Cheerleading in middle school sometimes can be a two-season activity: fall and winter. Middle school cheerleaders use the same cheerleading movements as their older counterparts, yet they perform less extreme stunts. These stunts range from preps, thigh stands, and extensions, to harder one-legged stunts.
Okaloosa County School District- cheerleaders at football game
Other favourite activities of the American middle-school students
- Meet Someone New- bringing in guest speakers to talk about different careers
- Community service club
- Best Buddies program- foster friendships between grade levels, do service projects for the school and community, read to lower grade levels, sponsor dances
- Multicultural league where they study new cultures each month, watch videos, make crafts, attempt to learn the language and most importantly, they make and eat the food
- Express Yourself- theatre group
- Film club- lending films
- Get Moving- athletics, yoga or dance
- Games- Pokémon and anime club, LEGO club
- Make it Yummy- cooking classes
- Gardening- growing vegetables and flowers
- STEM/STEAM activities- give students a chance to explore their creativity and problem-solving ideas