Dear Lenore: I just started sixth grade at middle school. I love being able to buy a snack at the morning break, but I’m afraid I’ll be late to class.
You have the right attitude for a new school — a spirit of adventure and a concern for following the rules.
Middle school can be intimidating to the child who has spent all of her school years in one elementary school. Meeting new friends, managing a schedule that requires finding a different room every 50 minutes, keeping track of homework and expectations from so many teachers — all of this would be daunting for anyone, even your parents.
It sounds like the teachers at your school are doing their best to make this transition work — they’ve told you they won’t give you detention for being late to class during the first week. But that will end soon, and you’ll have to manage your time during breaks and passing time from one part of campus to another.
First, I suggest you schedule a couple of bathroom breaks during the day. Yes, I know it sounds crazy to schedule them, but you don’t want to leave class for this reason if you can avoid it. Most teachers expect you to use the restroom during your breaks. There probably isn’t enough time during passing time, unless you have two consecutive classes close to each other.
The morning milk break and lunch are great times to visit the bathroom. I’ve known too many kids who would wait until the bell rang at the end of lunch to head for the restroom. Of course, they’d be late to class. If you make it a habit to visit the restroom at the same times every day, your body will probably cooperate.
How long is that line at milk break? If you find you spend your break waiting in line and then have to gulp your snack or put it away for later to avoid being late to class, perhaps it’s not worth it. You could bring a snack from home. Then you’d have time to play a game or visit with your new friends.
Even if you do everything you can to be on time for class, somewhere along the way you will probably be late or you’ll get assigned detention for talking or forgetting an assignment. It happens to nearly everyone at least once. When it does, consider it a learning opportunity. Figure out how to avoid repeating the situation that resulted in the detention. I once got in trouble for talking during a fire drill. It never happened again.
Most importantly, serve any detention you are assigned. As a middle school teacher and administrator, I had to deal with kids who were always in trouble for not serving their detentions. That earned them more detentions. These days, you probably won’t get suspended from school for neglecting this consequence, but it creates an ugly cycle of punishment that nobody needs.
Of course, you will have to tell your parents if you must stay after school, but when they see you taking responsibility for your little mistakes, they will know that you are growing up.
Good luck and have a great year.