When I think of Middle School, I think of authenticity. Ellis girls are authentic. Our students are genuine, vulnerable, and willing to say what they are thinking and feeling—even when it is challenging or difficult for them.
During a seventh grade advisory period on developing and maintaining a healthy body image, our students shared candidly with one another about how in childhood they saw their bodies as powerful and useful. They lamented how the preoccupation with appearance and body shape in the media sometimes shifted their focus to one of body dissatisfaction and flaws. The authenticity in the conversation came as the girls talked about how they wanted to encourage one another to keep this childhood perspective of strong, powerful, and useful bodies. When asked what they were grateful for about their bodies, this is what students heard from one another:
“I like that my body can kick a soccer ball.”
“ I like that I can try sports that I am not good at.”
“ I like that I can try different fashions.”
“I like that I can think big thoughts.”
“ I like that I can stand up for other people.”
Our health and wellness program enables Ellis students to create a plan for how to develop and maintain their emotional regulation skills, expand their circle of care, and increase their advocacy for themselves and others, all while authentically discussing challenging subjects.
Health and wellness are also emphasized in our Middle School advisory program and on Tiger Days. Already this year, we have experienced empowering conflict resolution role plays in fifth-grade health class, learned social cognition skills in the way we deliver our messages through the skills of perspective-taking in sixth-grade advisory, and learned how to manage our stress through mindfulness strategies in seventh-grade advisory. Discussions on vaping and other drug prevention, healthy sleep patterns, empowering and responsible social media use, and eating disorder prevention are forthcoming.
The middle school years emphasize for us what we know about child and adult development at any stage: that social and emotional learning are crucial to whole-person success. The authenticity of Middle School students does not allow us to ignore this and we are grateful for that.
Our hope is that Ellis girls leave Middle School with mind and body strategies for their own wellness to utilize in Upper School and beyond through authentic discussion and collaboration.