As your child moves into Aquinas Middle School, there is a mixture of anxiety and excitement. There are many changes ahead. The purpose of this summary is to answer some of your key questions and in the process relieve some of your anxieties.

Common Questions Many Parents Ask About Middle School:

What is the difference between middle school and junior high school? A junior high is set up to model a high school. As a mini-high school, junior high schools tend to be teacher-centered, strictly departmentalized, content-focused, randomly scheduled, and often impersonal. Middle schools are designed specifically to be developmentally appropriate to meet the educational needs of a very unique population – early adolescents. Elementary and high school programs are not necessarily appropriate for this transitional age group as they truly are in the MIDDLE!! At this age, students require personal attention, connectedness, student-centered teaching, and a schedule that promotes interaction. Some major differences are:


  1. Teaching teams
  2. Flexible scheduling
  3. Students scheduled on a team
  4. Homeroom for business and advisory program with teachers as advisors
  5. Student-centered
  6. Integrated curriculum development
  7. Teacher planning by team
  1. Departments
  2. Rigid schedules
  3. Random student scheduling
  4. Homeroom for business
  5. Content-centered
  6. Curriculum developed by content areas
  7. Random and/or department planning

What is teaming?
Teaming is a way of grouping students and teachers together to eliminate the impersonal random scheduling of the junior high school. The idea is to create small communities of learning within a school. Middle School teaming means that a common group of students are assigned to a common group of teachers for a common part of the day. The teachers keep close contact, in an organized regular teacher meeting format as well as informally, regarding student needs, observations and learning.

How will teaming benefit my child?
Teaming will allow teachers to work together to design programs to meet the individual needs of students according to each student’s interests and abilities. It will provide a more positive learning environment that promotes challenging and interactive teaching strategies. Students will no longer feel like a number. Learning experiences will cross subject area boundaries to become interrelated and relevant. Studies show that in this format, academic performance increases while discipline and other related problems decrease.

How will teaming benefit me as a parent?
Because a team of teachers meets on a regular basis, at any time you can get a very complete picture of our child’s progress via one conversation with a team teacher. Due to teaming, progress report requests are more easily and thoroughly handled. The team conference period is available for you, as a parent, to meet with your child’s teachers in a timely and comprehensive manner. Teachers are able to keep in contact with each other regarding the needs of your child. Thus, your student is receiving a quality educational experience.

What developmental changes can we expect with our son/daughter?
The middle school years, early adolescence, is a time of dramatic change for young people. At no other time of their lives will they grow as quickly socially, emotionally, and physically than during the middle school years. This is a time of contradictions, challenges, and great rewards. During this time, you might expect:


  • Dramatic physical development
  • Great appetites, often with odd tastes
  • Bones tend to grow faster than muscles
  • Erratic growth often resulting in a lack of coordination
  • Acute awareness of their own physical development
  • Physical development (especially biological) usually occurs before emotional and social maturity


  • Intense curiosity
  • Learning happens best when actively involved in the learning experience
  • Learning happens best when they see the learning experience as real and relevant to them
  • Beginning to know what they do and do not know
  • Developing their own sense of humor
  • Putting academic learning second to their social and emotional concerns


  • Developing extreme loyalties to peer groups
  • Strong need to feel “connected” to others
  • Worrying about fitting in
  • Challenging authority figures, including parents and teachers
  • Beginning to develop interests in the opposite sex


  • Trying to identify their individual uniqueness
  • Continual hormonal changes that trigger emotional shifts and frequent mood swings therefore, if you don’t like their attitude, wait a few minutes and it will change
  • Extremely self-conscious and vulnerable to bouts of low self-esteem
  • Feelings are intensified and they tend to take things very personally
  • Many simple things become very dramatic issues and they tend to be crisis oriented


  • Prone to a lot of questioning and critical thinking about their faith
  • Challenging the need to attend Mass regularly
  • Striving to “fit in” with peers thus not as actively and/or outwardly involved in the Mass and with their faith

What is the teacher-advisory (TA) program? The teacher-advisory (TA) program is one that pairs small groups of students with a teacher – often a teacher other than the homeroom teacher. The program focuses on student social, emotional, spiritual, and other issues. TA requires a lot of student-teacher interaction. The teacher provides activities and a climate for students to develop skills in communication, teamwork and problem solving in a context outside of a regular classroom setting. TA allows students to address and discuss issues in a non-threatening, open and adult-led environment.

What is the difference between Core and Encore classes? Core classes are the required basic classes that meet daily for all students. Encore classes, also known as Exploratory or Specials, are those courses that allow students to experience a variety of areas. Encore classes meet on a rotating basis.


Language Arts
Social Studies
Foreign Language (French or Spanish)
Physical Education
Music (Chorus, General Music, Strings or Band)
Health (grade 8 only)

How is the middle school schedule different from an elementary schedule?
In a middle school setting, students are steered towards independence. They have lockers in which they keep their personal belongings and school supplies. They move from classroom to classroom with organized locker break time. Students will have a variety of teachers throughout the day. Students will experience a variety of schedules. Middle school teachers and students are able to design schedules to meet their needs regarding a specific project or activity. Flexible scheduling affords teachers and students opportunities to work together. A lot of learning is done via projects, presentations and discussions. Homework and the development of study skills are part of the middle school experience. Students are challenged to take responsibility for their actions and behaviors. Ownership of their actions, successes and failures is stressed.

How will the middle school prepare my son or daughter for high school?
There is strong evidence to support that teachers working together on teaching teams better prepare students for their high school career and beyond. The ability for teachers to collectively develop more challenging learning experiences and appropriate teaching strategies that reach across content boundaries creates students that are more motivated, confident, self-directed, and successful.

How can I best support my child during this transitional period of middle school?
With a lot of love, faith and patience, you and your child will survive this time of the raging hormones and surge for independence. Make time to talk with your child daily about school. Find out what your child’s interests are. Communicate with the teacher as needed. Listen to what your child is saying and not saying to you. Allow your child an opportunity to stand on his own. Try to let your child solve his own problems and be responsible for his own actions. Be ready to hug him when he succeeds and catch him when he falls. Be a good role model for your child. Sacrifice friendship with your child for parenting your child. Never take what your child says too personally, and take every day as a new day. Your precious little package is spreading its wings. Get comfortable and try to enjoy the flight.