Earlier this school year, we announced our first cohort of Middle School Ambassadors. These five scholars were selected by their principals as some of the most active and upstanding in their school communities — and particularly well-suited to help third- and fourth-grade families learn the ins and outs of what it means to be an SA middle schooler.
One of our ambassadors, SA Midtown West eighth-grader Sienna Toung, is passionate about embracing new experiences and helping ease the transition between elementary school and middle school. She recently answered some questions from elementary school scholars and parents about what her middle school experience has been like.
What is your favorite part of middle school?
A new sense of freedom! In middle school, you can manage your own time and choose semester electives in subjects you’re interested in. Not to mention the fact that there are so many people to meet from all around the city and things to learn from them since not all of them went to your elementary school.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
Anywhere from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., I wake up and get ready for school. Once I’m ready, I take the train with my brother and one of my friends who lives down the street. When I get to school, I say hello to my advisor, watch the morning show, and then at 8:40 a.m. I go to my first class of the day, English and Language Arts (ELA). During the day, there is never a dull moment between taking classes and talking to my friends in the hallways!
After attending ELA, history, math, and theater, I go to off-campus lunch, which all Midtown West 8th graders can qualify for by obtaining a 70% GPA or higher in their courses. The big attraction for lunch is the One World Plaza. My friends and I have so many choices, like the Amish market, the Food Emporium, and more! When I get back, I take Science before going to my Regents prep session during Study Hall. As an eighth-grader, I’m preparing to take four Regents exams at the end of the year so that I’m ready for high school. By 4:30 p.m., everyone is rushing downstairs to meet up with friends. It can be hectic since some of the SA Hell’s Kitchen elementary school scholars are excitedly waiting for their siblings downstairs, too!
Middle schoolers can typically leave by themselves unless they’ve agreed that a parent will pick them up. For example, in sixth grade, I used to go home with a parent or babysitter, but now that I’m in eighth grade I take the train home with my brother and friends who have similar commutes. When I get home I usually do my homework, have some dinner with family, and prepare for the next day.
What kind of challenges do you face on campus as a middle schooler?
I’ve found that sometimes people don’t always act how you expect them to act, or how they’re supposed to. Even with friends, relationships can change as we grow and get older, and that can take its toll on you. At the end of the day, it’s about figuring out what kind of person you are, and how you can be a responsible person in our little community. You really have to find a way to peacefully coexist with people who you may have drifted from or who you may not agree with about everything — instead of giving in to whatever negativity you may come across.
What are some tips you’d give to elementary schoolers before starting middle school?
I encourage new fifth graders to take it easy — you’re just getting started, and it’s natural for this transition to be challenging. You’ll get used to the changes, and it will get easier.
Beyond going easy on yourself, I encourage all new middle schoolers to get comfortable asking questions. The more questions, the better! If I’m unclear on anything — instructions on an assignment, a math problem, or a school policy, I’ll either ask my teacher or my friends for help. For example, math isn’t my strongest subject, but one of my friends is great at it. Whenever I need help with algebra or substitution, she walks through it with me until I get it.
It’s also really important to take ownership of your schoolwork. We’re at the point in school where with our new independence, we won’t always be told what we did wrong on an assignment, quiz, or test. Once I missed a question on a math packet, but I wasn’t sure why. But it’s so important to ask your teacher what you did wrong and how you can improve — once I did, I was able to understand and revise.