Starting middle school, with its new campus, schedule, classmates, teachers, and classes is a challenging aspect of adolescence. In addition to these transitions there are changes in a girl’s body, sense of self, friendships, and relationships with her family. GMS supports students with programs and activities specifically designed with girls in mind, beginning with New Student Orientation and continuing throughout her three years here.
At GMS, each girl is assigned an advisor when she enters sixth grade, and that faculty or staff member is her advisor for all three years. This long-term relationship allows advisors to get to know their advisees deeply and watch them grow academically and socially. Advisors track academic progress, check in with their advisees weekly, and support the girls in becoming their own best advocates during the sometimes bumpy middle school years. Families rely on the advisor as a supporter of their daughter and a source of information regarding her development.
The most enthusiastic participants in the advisory program are the girls themselves. Advisory groups include students from all three grades. Younger students look up to older girls as role models, while older girls share what they have learned and welcome new members into the group. Each fall, advisory groups kick off the year with a day-long field trip designed to help the girls get to know each other and their advisor better. Groups bake goodies, surf, hike, or provide community service around the peninsula in their quest for bonding and fun.
Andi Barlas, who is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a board-certified art therapist, teaches our SEL courses and is available to meet with students. Andi meets with students as they negotiate friendships and she helps girls manage social and emotional issues experienced at home or at school. As a guidance advisor she is a resource for everyone – parents, staff, and students. Andi keeps the lines of communication open and helps to normalize the adolescent experience.
We value the opportunity for students to meet one-on-one with teachers. We also believe middle school is a time for students to learn to make good choices about using their time effectively. Office hours addresses both these needs. During this daily thirty-minute period, all teachers are available and students choose how to use their time. They can choose to seek additional help for a concept, spend time with friends, catch up on homework, jam out in the Music Room, meet with teachers, or simply relax a few extra minutes in the sun. We scaffold this experience for our sixth graders by providing direction or suggestions, and by eighth grade, students have learned to manage this period wisely. Office Hours is highly valued by students and teachers alike.
Sixth Grade Learning Lab
Girls entering middle school encounter many new academic responsibilities. In Learning Lab, they have the opportunity to better understand themselves as learners. Meeting weekly during the first semester of sixth grade, students explore topics related to how to learn, applying relevant information to themselves and using these new skills in their other classes. By the end of the semester, they have created a personalized learning profile containing detailed suggestions that they can use throughout their middle school careers and beyond. Previous topics have included learning styles, multiple intelligences, technology use, groupwork, learning differences, sleep, organization, time management, and mindfulness. We regularly update this curriculum based on student needs and trends.