Peer Mentors Help 8th Graders with Academic Skills for Success

Upper School mentors met via Zoom with their 8th grade friends this week, this time to discuss academic skills for success, including collaboration, time management, balance, communication, and teacher relationships. While these skills are important for high school, college, and beyond, they’re also helpful for 8th graders to work on as they finish up their middle school years.

The peer mentors spaced out in Brauer Auditorium to Zoom into their 8th grade advisories. While they much prefer to be in person, they’ve found a way to safely continue connecting with their younger friends.

Teacher Relationships

Mentors began by talking about the importance of meeting with teachers outside of class time, helping 8th graders learn how to reach out and what to say. They also talked about all the various resources available to students in the Upper School, including Student Support Services (counselors, learning specialist, and nurse), Deans, College Counselors, and Advisors. They discuss which resource is appropriate for various student needs, and how to get in touch with them.

First, think about the problem at hand and your options for getting help or finding a solution. Can your question be easily answered by email or by a friend? Can you use a free period or collab time to find a resource? And what resources are there? Some great non-teacher resources include deans, friends, other teachers, and Student Support Services. Sometimes, though, only your teacher will do. Students, when reaching out to their teachers for help, should come in prepared with some work complete, and know specifically what they want to ask. This shows respect for the teacher’s time and allows an efficient use of everyone’s time.

One fun way to learn how to do something is to see an egregious example of how it’s done incorrectly. Upper School students showed a funny mock email to a teacher from a pretend student. The student is asking for an extension on a homework assignment.

They challenged their Middle School friends to help them identify what’s wrong with the message, and some ways they could fix it. Together, they wrote an appropriate email that would be more likely to garner a positive response from the teacher.

Time Management

Then the mentors jumped to the importance of time management, sharing what they’ve learned since they were in the Middle School. Some Upper School students even showed how their backpacks are organized and demonstrated their planning systems as examples. They shared efficient strategies for managing school work and anxiety around school. Our students often face high expectations from themselves and their parents, and their perceptions of teachers and other students can increase anxiety.

Eighth graders began this exercise by sharing what their average week looks like. They talked about their various commitments and how they prioritize their activities and obligations. Mentors shared examples of their own weeks, sharing their planners and their organizational strategies. Some helpful tips include using a planner or setting up alerts on your phone for assignments, writing down how long each section of homework will take, and planning ahead for the times when you’re extra busy.


Collaborating with peers can be helpful for a variety of reasons, including reducing stress, creating friendships, and learning new ways to tackle problems. The advisories discussed how to work effectively in a group, including making a group chat, planning what each person is going to be responsible for at the beginning, and recording how much time you worked before comparing to other partners. How should students handle a teammate who isn’t doing their part? First, try respectfully talking to them about it. If that doesn’t work, talk to your teacher. Remember that a lot of project work is graded differently for each person’s effort.


Finally, the advisories discussed how to find balance between the competing priorities of school, athletics, family, and other obligations. Many students find Upper School stressful when trying to balance homework, studying, sports, extracurriculars, and socializing. First, it’s important to understand the difference between stress and anxiety. Stress is okay; it’s motivating and short-lived, and can help with focus. Stress becomes anxiety when it’s still occurring after the event is over and becomes debilitating.

Mentors offered a great list of ways to reduce anxiety:

  • Plan out your week
  • Meet with teachers if you have questions
  • Talk to a friend or counselor
  • Exercise (boosts endorphins)
  • Try going to bed earlier, if possible
  • High-fat, high-protein breakfast
  • Disconnect from your phone before bedtime (put it across the room)
  • Meditation
  • Let go of perfection! It’s not gonna happen!

Thanks once again to our wonderful Peer to Peer mentors for helping their younger schoolmates prepare for life in the Upper School and beyond. Sharing stories and personal tips and tricks are so meaningful to our Middle School friends!