Jenn Lindsay, head of Baylor’s Middle School since 2018 and an educator for more than 17 years, is keenly aware that every adolescent will need a little help now and then. She also knows that Middle School students may not seek that help.
“Their developing minds and bodies are driving them to be independent,” Lindsay says. “They don’t want to ask for help. We want them to learn how to ask.” Teaming up with Director of Middle School Support, Dr. Christy Tomisek, and Director of Wellness, Jenny Green, Lindsay has overseen the updating of support systems in the Middle School that has included learning support, counseling, the adviser system, physical education, and the wellness program.
Baylor opened and dedicated a Middle School Learning Center this fall and hired Henry Blue as its full-time learning specialist. A generalist in humanities, writing, and analysis skills, Blue teams with Tomisek, who specializes in identified learning disabilities or styles. Blue is available throughout the school day and before or after school for students who are referred by teachers or come on their own. “We have quite a few students in the center throughout the day, so I would say we’re meeting the needs of kids more so than we did in the past,” says Lindsay. “With learning support in the open and not isolated, it removes a lot of the stigma and misconceptions students may have.”
Students need to know that who they are is not just the grades they make, their level of academic success.There is a resource for everything a student could need here at Baylor.
Although Lindsay says the school’s view of counseling is a “whole-school endeavor,” the Middle School has also hired Lizzie Corey Gendimenico ’06 as a counselor dedicated to grades 6-8 in addition to the learning and counseling support provided by Dr. Tomisek. “The Upper School counselors have an open-door policy toward Middle School students,” explains Lindsay, “but having two counselors in the building and accessible is important. We’ve had some fairly normal student issues come up, and we’ve been able to jump in and calm them down in the early stages. It feels as though our approach is working. I think it will only get better as we go along.”
Advisers in the Middle School also play a large role in student support. In addition to the weekly adviser group activities that promote community, the meetings also feature topics such as time management, leadership, and cooperation. “The advisers are our eyes and ears in the classroom and may recognize behavior changes that point to an issue where we can offer support,” Lindsay says. “The adviser acts as a liaison between parents and the support systems we have in place.”
Additionally, physical education and wellness classes now alternate on a daily basis, providing more movement during the academic day. “I felt this change was very important,” explains Lindsay. “Movement during the day, and the blood flow it creates, is a huge part of development. It is good for students academically and emotionally to use some energy during the day. With P.E. and wellness within the normal class rotation, they get more movement throughout the entire year.”
Lindsay hopes to see every Baylor Middle School student progress to the ninth grade with a strong academic foundation. The support systems currently in place should also help them move forward with a healthier sense of personal identity and community as well. “Students need to know that who they are is not just the grades they make, their level of academic success,” she says. “There is a resource for everything a student could need here at Baylor. Nobody falls through the cracks.”