Expectations, Executive Functioning in Middle School

Hello and welcome to our 6th week of school! Can you believe it? It’s usually around this time kids start to settle in and begin to understand the rules and expectations we have for them. Our general rule is that all students know and understand classroom expectations by the beginning of October. This includes what is expected when they walk in, during instruction, independent/group work time, and lesson closure. Teachers have the autonomy to create their own flair within the classroom lesson, but all teachers have the same overall classroom expectations to help keep structure among the student body. 

What is executive functioning? Executive function is the brain’s air traffic controller, intercepting a tangle of thoughts and impulses and steering them toward safe, productive outcomes. Executive function allows children to improve their abilities to stay focused, plan ahead, regulate their emotions, and think flexibly and creatively. These skills often need to be taught by both parents and teachers. 

This year 6th graders will learn to implement executive functioning through lessons during Access time. Mrs. Hinshaw, our executive functioning coordinator will create these lessons. Topics will partially be chosen by checking in with students who are in MTSS and asking the parent community for information on how to best help your students. One of the first lessons is how to simply log in to Infinite Campus to check grades. I’m finally old enough to say, “back when I was in school” grade books were actual paper books! Then it was much harder to know your current grades unless you had conversations with your teachers. Now we have this tool (IC) in which, in theory, parents and students can check daily, but at the very least should be checking weekly. The information is literally at the students fingertips.  

If you have a student athlete, you are well aware of our Eligibility Policy. If not, this can be found on all of the PRA MS Sport specific webpages. During our seasonal parent meetings, we discuss this in full and coaches remind students to check each Friday. I highly suggest students check their IC every day during Study Hall and on Friday night going into the weekend. Eligibility is pulled at 10 a.m. every Tuesday. There should be no secrets going into the weekend when it comes to grades. Unfortunately, if the student has two F’s they cannot participate in sports until eligibility is run again the following Tuesday. The simple task of getting in the habit of checking IC will save a lot of tears and heartache for our student athletes. 

If your student struggles with executive functioning, try these simple suggestions:

  1. Teach them how to use a planner/Google calendar.
  2. Help them create checklists for everyday tasks.
  3. Set time limits
  4. Establish a routine for things such as homework.   
  5. Post a daily schedule (chores, after school activities, homework, etc.)
  6. Help them organize their room/backpack/binders

Learning executive functioning skills is a lifelong process and it takes a village of people in our students’ lives to help them develop these skills. We are committed to help students learn these skills. We realize that the jump from 5th grade to middle school is huge, so we will bring back our mini series “So I Have a Middle Schooler, Now What?” as we continue to provide resources to help navigate your family’s middle school years and prepare your students for high school and beyond.  

by Casey Baldwin
Middle School Assistant Principal & Assistant Athletic Director 

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