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The Middle School Mindset at Crofton House School: Partnering with Parents 

When families choose Crofton House School for their middle schoolers, they are joining a caring community of educators and parents who are uniquely attuned to the academic and social needs of these students. Crofton House School’s Middle School program meets girls in Grades 6 and 7 with a comprehensive, inclusive, interdisciplinary program that promotes personal growth and intellectual challenges during a distinct period of development. We believe a successful Middle School program is responsive, challenging, empowering, equitable, and engaging. Teachers and staff are striving to create an environment where students feel a sense of belonging, and the groundwork is laid to form healthy attachments with trusted adults. 

A middle schooler is changing physically, intellectually, morally, socially and emotionally. It is a pivotal time in a young person’s life—the school experience must keep pace. The only other time when developmental changes and brain capacity growth are happening as rapidly is between birth and two years of age. “At this age, they start to discover who they are and naturally they will start to push themselves in a positive, normal way away from their parents,” said Kerry Harding, Program Coordinator, Grade 6–7, Junior School. “So what we want to do is partner with parents to make sure they still feel aligned with what their child is going through in terms of social-emotional wellbeing, and in terms of what they’re doing at school in academic programming.”

Middle School years can also be a vulnerable time in a students’ inner world. Deeper connections with others can sometimes lead them away from their sense of self, and their values. “These are critical years for parents to help kids take risks, and we have to do that at a time when they are mercilessly self-critical and risk-averse,” said Phyllis L. Fagell, a licensed clinical professional counsellor, certified professional school counsellor, journalist, and author of Middle School Matters. That’s why Crofton House programming nurtures self-confidence and a “whole girl” approach as they head into the Senior School program. And we know that girls in single-gender schools are more academically adventurous, openly curious, and engaged in their communities. 

Crofton House faculty address wellbeing first with the understanding that until a child is in a well-regulated headspace, learning can’t happen optimally. That’s why CHS has a strong social-emotional program that includes eight specific lessons and also provides a supportive framework for students. The school day begins with a “soft start” that supports students with a relaxed arrival, and the chance to mingle with peers and the same teacher every day before transitioning into their regular schedule.  “Some days, teachers are delivering curated social and emotion lessons that focus on the growth and development of the students' sense of self—be it writing poetry to further explore their self-identity and/or deep discussions on our multicultural identity and recognizing the different lenses and perspectives we come to school with,” said Sarah Edington, Grade 6/7 Humanities Teacher. 

“Other days, students might be given the opportunity to explore different sensory stations set up around the classroom, to play, wonder, and explore without constraints of learning objectives or assessment influencing their creativity. This time can be community-building activities such as talking circles that investigate what make positive and healthy relationships and friendships. Or it can be dance parties and bad-joke telling competitions, as laughter can be the fastest and easiest way to set up a middle school student for a day of motivation and success.” “When teachers can connect with things middle schoolers enjoy doing out of school time, the 'buy-in’ to the learning they do is more authentic,” said Alexis Mauricio, Teacher, Grade 7, Junior School. “In other words, if teachers 'get' their students at this stage, it helps to facilitate the learning going on in the classroom.”

To support the wider community, Crofton House has also enlisted the help of experts to help educate and inform each part, from students to teachers, and parents. In the 2020-2021 school year, CHS held multiple audience-specific sessions with the following guests: 

  • Dr. Theresa Newlove: Trauma-Informed Practice (presented by CHS Parents’ Auxiliary)
  • Phyllis Fagell: Middle School Matters
  • Dr. Jeff Hancock: Technology Use and Wellbeing
  • Lisa Dion: Resolving Conflict and Self-Regulation
  • Stephanie Dang: Healthy Relationship with Food
  • Dr. Tina Payne Bryson: Parenting in a Pandemic  (presented by CHS Parents’ Auxiliary)

It is empowering for students and parents to know that these changes are normal and to give them a better understanding of how to manage and integrate them, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has meant students have a greater need for help to support connecting, managing workload, and navigating social restrictions. “If there is an issue, we treat each situation based on that individual child and what’s going on with them in their life,” said Ms. Harding. 

Through the social-emotional program, daily check-ins, awareness, and whole-girl approach, Crofton House teachers and students have helped bring a level of resiliency to our Middle School students that stands out. Parents complete the picture, and we’re proud of our entire community for aligning in support of these extraordinary students. We look forward to welcoming new students into our Middle School to contribute to this dynamic community.