“Imagine you’re rafting a whitewater river. You twist and turn with the boat, trying not to fall out or run straight into a boulder. Water sprays your face. You paddle this way and then that way. Your heart beats hard, your eyes keenly scan the river, your ears listen for what the rest of the group in your boat is saying.
Woosh and your raft suddenly drops a few feet, a shock and a thrill at once. You’re spinning now, and then you’re going backward down the river, yelling out to your friends with a strange mixture of terror and excitement.
If you can place yourself in this scenario, can feel the spin of the boat and that odd mixture of excitement and fear, then you have a taste of what it’s like to be an adolescent.” (Balme, 2022, p. xvii)
It’s with this description that author Chris Balme kicks off his transformative book and guide to navigating the raging river of life in Middle School. Last term, a group of interested and engaged GNS parents came together to explore the themes of Finding the Magic in Middle School. Gathering in the David Graham Learning Commons shortly after the start of the school day, the group explored a wide variety of issues that face Middle School students and their families and discussed the suggestions and insights found within the pages of this fantastic resource.
This Parent Book Club provided a supportive space for parents to share their experiences, exchange ideas, commiserate, glean wisdom from one another, and consider how GNS can continue to work to provide our Middle School river rafters with an environment that effectively supports their learning and growth.
Some highlights from the discussion included The Art of Companioning (chapter 8), examining how we can become effective, empathetic guides for Middle Schoolers as parents and teachers facing the realization that what they need from us is now very different from what was needed at a younger age. Friends (chapter 11) was a hot topic, as the group discussed the ways the author suggests we can help Middle Schoolers find and keep good friends. Looking at some golden opportunities (greater independence, mastery, voices for justice, etc.) and challenges with a silver lining (phones, video games, focus and forgetfulness, etc.) from chapter 13 that adolescence presents evoked both sympathetic groans and also aha moments.
As we wrapped our final session, it was inspiring to have a group of parents come together with a united sense of purpose: to share experiences and advice, and to work towards becoming the guides that our Middle School students need. Guides who can “see them as they truly are: engaged, curious, strange, questioning, evolving at an almost unbelievable pace. Trustworthy, respect-worthy, eager to show what they can do, ready to hold responsibility. They are on an epic adventure, one of the truly great ones in their lives. We get to witness them, like some slow-motion midair video, as they leap into adulthood.” (Balme, 2022, p. xvii)
As we reflect on the success of this experience, we’re excited to look ahead to our upcoming Senior School Book Club, focusing on The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents, by Lisa Damour. Our Junior School families can join in on discussions about podcasts this term, starting with Episode 1 `from “Where You Are” from Kelty Mental Health. Be sure to check out Wednesday’s GNS Announcements for details!