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What are the Benefits of a Pre-K - 8th Grade School?

Student Government Officers

Pre-K - 8, or Pre-K - 12: One Educator’s Perspective 

Middle School is difficult, and most adults would not admitted to wanting to repeat it. It can be a terrifying stage of life. Your mind is changing. Your body is changing. Everybody notices and they are all worried about you. 

The middle school grades can indeed be challenging ones to navigate. Looking back, most adults remember little to no academics from those years that transported them from elementary to high school. Emotions are high, and logic is fleeting.

To know anything about teaching middle schoolers is to know two things above all: make them feel comfortable, and they will learn; make them feel safe, and they will thrive. A warm, inviting middle school environment is vital to helping an early adolescent succeed. To thrive. At Independence, we believe that such an environment may only be created by a school that finishes in eighth grade.    

Becoming confident leaders

To start, a school’s reputation is tied to its upper grades for better or worse. Its graduating class, and those just below, are that school’s identity. This includes athletics, music, and any other public activities or presentations. A school’s reputation flows through how the community views its top grades and graduates.

When discussing a private Pre-K to12th grade school, the conversation starts with its high school, shifts to the elementary level, and finishes with the middle school. It might not be fair, but the middle school of a Pre-K to 12th institution is often an afterthought.
 
However, in a Pre-K to 8th-grade school, the eighth grade is that school’s identity, with the sixth and seventh trailing right behind. Middle schoolers are not playing “second fiddle” to their older counterparts. They don’t have to settle for second-hand athletic equipment or less-than-ideal space to rehearse their performances after school. 

Eighth graders are the recognized faces of their school. They are the team captains, the student government, the band section leaders, and the student ambassadors. These experiences of seniority and leadership are invaluable to a middle schooler. Come spring, the kindergarteners are looking in awe at the middle school students who pass them in the halls. It doesn’t matter if it’s the class president or the backup point guard. The middle school students at a Pre-K-8 school are leaders, and they feel it in their bones. Confidence to thrive.

Letting kids be kids

High school, by its nature, comes with baggage. Adolescents approaching adulthood and on the verge of independence are simply prone to behaviors that can be both delightful and unsettling, to put it mildly. High school has issues all its own, and some schools are better equipped to deal with them than others. Either way, middle school children deserve to be shielded from that. A few more years of letting kids be kids will go a long way socially and academically. While we don’t want to go overboard in sheltering younger students, it is best if they are not exposed to some high school situations on a daily basis. Thirteen-year-olds already have enough on their emotional plates. They don’t need the everyday influence and pressures of a high school population to complicate things even further.

Skills for Life

A special thing happens at our Pre-K-8 school every year when we begin the process of saying goodbye to our eighth graders. And it is indeed a process.

In the fall, the English department teaches them how to create resumes to send along with their high school applications. Our secondary school placement advisor works with them to make their applications as strong as possible and find the right school for them. She even teaches them how to perform in interviews. The students have to contact their past teachers to gather their best writing samples. It’s hard work, and it is designed to teach lifelong skills.
 
We teach our eighth graders how to take all of the valuable skills they have acquired and use them to present their best selves as they move to their next stage of life. This is a process they will repeat many times as they grow older. And because we don’t simply advance them to ninth grade, they start learning these skills in eighth grade when they are looking for a high school. 

Middle school is a roller coaster ride of emotions, and being sandwiched between elementary and high school does not help. Fostering the confidence of middle school students while building their leadership and life skills in a safe, welcoming environment is paramount. Middle school students deserve their time to shine, and they shine brightest in Pre-K-8 schools.


Learn more about Leadership & Character Development at Independence