An Interview with a Middle School Mother and Daughter

Winter 2007 | | January 21, 2007 at 6:29 pm

Jill: I think my daughter’s challenge in math has a direct connection to her learning style. She’s asking, “Why am I learning this?” I know for a fact that Mai is a hands-on learner. I believe, if you give her an algebraic problem and teach her how to build a bridge with the equation, she will understand. Unfortunately many schools do not provide enough support for the different ways in which a student learns and processes information.

Mai, is there anything else you want to say about school?

It’s a fun experience, but I can’t wait to go to high school. Hopefully I will attend Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jill, what were your expectations as a middle school parent?

I have high expectations for middle school because of Mai’s amazing early learning experience at Howard University’s Early Learning Program. She was only two and half when she entered the program on the campus of Howard University during my undergraduate study there. It was during this time that she was inspired to go to college.

I hope that middle school will continue to allow her to discover new ideas, to think critically and foster her interest in college. Mai has been very enthusiastic about learning prior to middle school. I expect middle school to provide enthusiastic teachers who will evoke in my child a greater enthusiasm for learning, personal growth, and attention to college. My ideal middle school for Mai would include debate teams, entrepreneurial teams, hands-on science, community service, theatre and music experience—activities that influence leadership. I really can’t understand how we can expect students to become successful and go to college if they aren’t fully prepared and engaged in the academic culture.

Why did you decide to work with GEAR UP?I joined the California GEAR UP team in 2004 to work with the Family Initiatives Project (FIP). FIP is a gathering of families, school leadership, community and California GEAR UP with the focus to help families identify and increase the student’s academic abilities and to develop the skills required for their successful futures. This has been a great opportunity to help me with my responsibilities as a middle school parent.

What are your challenges as a parent?

I think my biggest challenge as a parent of a middle school student is dealing with the emotional, social and physical changes that are taking place in my teen daughter. The changes come so suddenly, making me look at Mai and think, “Who are you and what is happening with my daughter?” It’s a very difficult time for the teen and the parent. The FIP Session on “Understanding your Middle School Student” allowed me to see that I was not alone and my daughter’s behavior was normal teen behavior. Other families of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds are all dealing with the same issues and challenges with their middle school children as I am. It is so essential for families to be involved in the academic lives of their children because, as parents, we shape their lives. The best part of working with GEAR UP is seeing families discover their own value.

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