The middle school years are notoriously difficult to navigate. For young teens, physical, emotional, and mental development often clash with new responsibilities and expectations. Likewise, navigating social media in today’s digital world inevitably exposes novice users to complicated situations for which there is no textbook or manual. Middle schoolers are often just beginning to use forms of social media such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook (the latter far less popular among young users), even as they find themselves at the crossroads of childhood and teenhood, and experimenting with different forms of who they want to become. It’s a heavy load that brings with it the opportunity for both social enrichment and social detriment, as I learned recently while talking with students at Gaiser Middle School in Vancouver.
I was there to work with students through a program called GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), which provides mentoring and resources to boost academic performance and prepare students for college and careers. My goal was to work with the students to compose an article as a team. Step one was to select a topic, and that’s where the students first surprised me.