8th Grade: What to Expect

Sheri Reed
Big Kid
3

back to school



 

8th grader, middle school, what to expect

Photo by rkoloms

As we count down the days to back to school, the Daily Buzz talks with moms and public school teachers about what you and your child can expect in the coming year.


Today middle school teacher lorisladybugs and post-8th grade mom rkoloms give us the inside scoop about what to expect in 8th grade.

Academics

lorisladybugs: The main goal for all 8th grade teachers is to prepare their students for high school. Projects and learning achievements are based upon the state — we have a state test that all 8th graders are to pass — as do most states. Unfortunately, I feel we teach too much to that in order to get our funding.

However, this is a good age for students to explore what they want to major in for college. That way there is no wasting of high school.

Grading depends on individual teachers usually and school standards.

rkoloms: The main subjects taught are Geometry, Survey of Literature, Biology, Social Science, P.E. (my daughter elected to take Dance 1 instead), and electives (she took French 2). We saw major improvements in the quality of her research skills and writing ability. Between the dance class and several oral presentations, her self-confidence blossomed this year. The dance class also gave her a grace she never had and drastically improved her muscle tone and posture (she will be taking Dance 2 next year as an extra class). We also saw a moderate improvement in her time management skills.

School supplies

lorisladybugs: They will need pencils, pens, notebook paper, spirals, and the basics.  Unfortunately, with all the budget cuts, I think they will need more supplies this year. I have been buying more to help my students out.

Also, if your school does not supply a planner, I would recommend one. It's important to to hold young adults accountable for writing down assignments. We use it as a reward system at home — one that will pay off when they are high school.

rkoloms: A binder for each subject; lined and graph paper; index cards; post-its; flash drive; pens; pencils; erasers; glue sticks; stapler and staples; report covers; poster board; markers; highlighters, two combination locks; as well as leotards, tights, ballet and jazz shoes. Some of the textbooks are really big and heavy, so we bought copies on eBay to keep at home. We had the major expenses in 7th grade: the expensive calculator, gym clothes, etc. School fees run about $350; binders, pens, note cards, etc. ran about another $100. 

Homework

lorisladybugs: The amount of homework assigned is up to the individual teacher or school district. We have homework every night in math, and they may need help at home. Remember, all teachers are required to stay after school at least a total of an hour — either before or after school to assist. Plus, if there are real issues, there are tutors and teachers who are willing to help out. Sometimes the district will also pay for it.

Using the planner will help you stay on top of homework assignments. I find most 8th graders, especially in the spring, just lose interest. You need to help them stay focused on what they are missing.

Also, have a spot for your student to do their homework.

rkoloms: 2-3 hours a night, plus 6-8 hours on the weekends. By 8th grade, parental homework help should be limited to cutting and pasting, the occasional typing, and (most important) timeline management. 

Social scene

lorisladybugs: Their friends change daily or weekly, you never know. Eighth grade girls are the worst for drama. We call it Trauma Drama. Unfortunately, all the physical challenges make everything an issue. I spend a lot of time counseling — unfortunately, a lot of the trouble is from home too.

The 8th grade class we just sent to the high school was one of the best. As 7th graders, they went through "The Challenge." It played over to their 8th grade year and helped a lot. Unfortunately, it cost $10,000 just for the program, not teacher subs and supplies.

rkoloms: Parents can expect friends, bullies, parties, sleepovers, peer pressure, and cliques with perhaps the first broken heart thrown in. Because of the unique academic environment my daughter is in, the peer pressure is more likely to be to get straight As than anything else. There are very few schools where the nerds are cool.

Behavioral issues

lorisladybugs: Talking is big, but so is being disrespectful to the teacher. I deal with that one right away. Texting can be an issue, but the school rules should have been set. Lack of caring happens a lot, especially when they cannot see beyond the big picture.

Two big issues for us this year were cyber bullying and sexting — taking pictures of nude boyfriend or girlfriend and then texting them on to others. Both are criminal offenses. This is also the age, if not younger, that the experimenting with drinking and smoking starts.

rkoloms: The most common behavioral issues at this age include sexual harassment, talking in class, and cutting class.

Discipline

lorisladybugs: Each school has it owns set policies. Generally in our school, its starts with warnings, then referrals, leading to in-school suspension, then out-of-school suspension, and the worst would be expulsion. I use a lot of lunch detention in my classroom. In addition, students want to be tardy — it is cool. I try to help them realize that it is irresponsibility. We had a student expelled for excessive tardiness leading to an altercation with a teacher.

Buses/transportation

lorisladybugs: Our 8th grade students ride with high schoolers too. I see no real benefit, but I would rather have my students there than not at all.

rkoloms: The bus is social hour and a great way for kids to wake up in the morning (first class at 7; our pickup was 5:55) and unwind after an intense day afterschool. Driving would not have been an option; she did occasionally come home on public transit if she attended an event at school.

Sports/After-school Activities/Clubs

lorisladybugs: Once again with budget cuts, there may not be much left. We offer cross country, volleyball, football, basketball, and track for sports. For clubs, leadership is basically it. Choir was also offered this year.

rkoloms: Because she's at a high school, there are many options: clubs ranging from community service and inter-racial harmony to Seinfeld and Arthur. All of the usual sports are available with separate teams for the high schoolers and 7th/8th graders.

Volunteering

lorisladybugs: I would love to have parents volunteer with projects, field trips, poster-making, and events. I usually get "I would love to!" but when I call them, they are too busy.

Be involved. I know it is hard being a parent (I am one too), but you have to know what is going on. I am a teacher and a parent, and I still volunteer in my kids' classrooms and stay in contact with their teachers.

rkoloms: Parents are constantly being asked to give time and raise money. There are three parent organizations: PTSA, Local School Council (LSC), and the 501c fundraising group. Parents can get involved by showing up.

Biggest concern

lorisladybugs: Student flunking and attitude. All teachers have a school email address: email them. Getting the parents and teachers in contact is the best thing we have done to help. I advise parents to withhold privileges for flunking grades = no cell phone, no Wii, no TV, no computer. If your student sees the teacher and parent working together, it diffuses a lot of situations. Be involved. 

Biggest challenge

rkoloms: My daughter's biggest challenge was Geometry.

 

Thanks so much to lorisladybugs and rkoloms who helped us present this valuable Back to School information for 8th graders. Schools and activities vary depending on the district and where you live, of course.

Stay tuned for more "What to Expect" features in the Daily Buzz in the days ahead. What was the 8th grade experience like for you and your child?

Previous "What to Expect" Back to School features:

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