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Surviving and Thriving in Middle School – Advice from a Fallon Graduate

September 4, 2012

by Nick Padnos (Dublin High School Class of 2016 and Fallon Middle School Class of 2012 graduate)

Almost three years ago to the day, I entered Fallon Middle School as a nervous sixth grade student.  The lockers, changing classes, PE everyday and the thought of upper classman were overwhelming and intimidating. After my first day, I was not sure if I would make it out in one piece. As the days went by, however, it dawned on me that in order to be successful, I had to take control of my middle school experience. I knew middle school would not be easy, but when I thought about it, most things in life are not easy. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade my Fallon Middle School experience for anything.

As I embark upon life as a Dublin High student, I thought it would be helpful to incoming and existing middle school students to share a few pieces of advice. If there’s one thing I was told early on in middle school, that I still remember and am taking with me to Dublin High, it was to get involved in school. So that is exactly what I did. Of course, academics should always be the first priority. Stay on top of your work, keep your assignments organized, plan ahead, and refrain from procrastination. Trust me, I learned this lesson the hard way. I remember the late nights spent working on homework, with my mother scolding me with the same lecture I’m explaining to you now, but I really think she just wanted me to go to bed so she could watch the Housewives of New Jersey. Another academic piece of advice is to always treat your teachers with respect. You’ll be amazed how much better that makes the caliber of interaction between you and your teachers.

My second priority was student leadership and involvement. I learned from my fourth and fifth grade teacher, Ms. Lauren McGovern, the importance of student leadership and school spirit. I strongly urge students to participate in school wide spirit days and activities. They are designed to unify the school and a good way to make school all the more enjoyable. At Fallon, we had lunchtime activities and games put on by the students for the students. There were silly spirit days such as super hero day, crazy hair day, etc., which I made sure to go all out for. My goal throughout middle school, aside from academics, was to contribute to making Fallon a better place for all. As a sixth grader, I joined Student Council so I could share my thoughts and ideas. In seventh grade, I also participated in Student Council and took the Leadership class as one of my electives. In the end of my seventh grade year, I ran for the Student Body President with my good friend Sean Haggerty, and we were fortunate to become two of Fallon’s leaders for our eighth grade year. Elections are fun and a great way to meet students you didn’t know before, gain confidence through public speaking, and all together become a better leader.

If you are not interested in student leadership, there are many other ways to get involved. Both Dublin middle schools have amazing sport programs and extra curricular activities. As a sixth grader, I was able to try out different sports and activities, thus getting a taste for what I liked. I participated in basketball and track in my sixth grade year. I had a lot of fun, met new friends, and got to know some of the teachers who were our coaches. In addition to sports, both middle schools also have amazing band programs. I played the saxophone from fourth grade through eighth grade. Aside from learning how to play an instrument and reading music, band was a fantastic and inspiring experience. I was able to work alongside my fellow classmates, participate in school rallies, compete throughout the Bay area, and compete at and attend Disneyland twice. These were all great middle school memories.

Finally, the day I had been waiting for was here, the last day of eighth grade. Ironically, I realized that my promotion day was just the beginning. When I looked around the gym, moments before I presented a commencement address, I saw a group of incredibly talented students, scholars, athletes, artists, performers, classmates, neighbors, and friends. After all, the first day of sixth grade, we were all young, timid, nervous students, worrying about our middle school experience. Now we move on to the next chapter of our lives, together as Dublin High School Freshman. We will always have each other and our mutual middle school memories. So as you enter sixth grade, or your freshman year, don’t be afraid to set goals and work hard to achieve them. Friendships you make now, you may very well have for the rest of your life. When you see another student at school having a hard time, sitting alone at lunch, struggling with schoolwork or whatever the case may be, stop and help them.

A quote that has been inspiration to me are the words of Abraham Lincoln, “determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.” Lincoln is telling us that if you have the faith and confidence that you shall succeed, there is always a way to achieve your goal. This shows us that nothing can stop us from achieving our goals if we work hard.  I beg all of you, throughout middle school, high school and beyond, never give up on your objective, for there always is a way.

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