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Be successful by starting the school year right!

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Dolphins, on your mark, get set, go! Let’s start this year with a splash! It’s that time again to get the vital school supplies, make new friends, study for classes, keep from procrastinating, and start organizing. The best way to have a great school year is to start strong and keep it up all the way through the spring exams.

Must-have school supplies

Of course, the basic school supplies like pencils, highlighters, lined paper, a planner, folders, and or binders are absolutely necessary. Also, there are optional items like Post-It notes and tabs, scissors, colorful pens, a pencil case, and anything else that will encourage a successful school year. As always, every year there is a supply list that comes out a few weeks before school starts and there are always things that change from year to year but overall the list is a great guide in determining what supplies students need to allow them to be successful.

Many students start off the school year with a backpack full of all the necessities they need to get through the school year, but, as the school days progress, so does the loss of school supplies. Former 8th grader Taylor Reeves said, “I know from experience that supplies can make or break your school year. You never know when you‘ll need that one highlighter or those three pencils.”

Having the required materials and supplies is necessary to have a productive lesson. “It can be distracting,” said Mr. Mark Sebastian, language arts teacher, “to the teacher and others when a student is constantly asking to borrow supplies from a classmate.” When this behavior becomes consistent, it can form a poor habit.

According, to Ms. Gilbreath, “You should always have something to write with and to write on (pencil, paper, and pen)…. These supplies are a staple for the entire year. Every night you should check to make sure that you have a pencil, lead, eraser, and paper.” That way you don’t need to borrow these things from other classmates or ask a teacher for them.

If you are missing anything, the GBMS school store is a great place to get it. It is open from 7:05 a.m. to 7:25 a.m. It has supplies such as pens, paper, folders, pencils, glue, and many of the other thigs you will need throughout the school year.

Keep calm and get organized! 

As many students and teachers know, organization is one of the many keys to a successful school year. Therefore, why wouldn’t students start strong and form good habits at the beginning of the year? The main factor that makes middle school so different from elementary school is the many different classes and teachers. The transition can be a confusing one, and even leaves those experienced in middle school tripped up at times. The agenda is an essential tool that can make or break your grades. But it takes more than just having one, you must write in it too. At the end of the day, your head is swirling with all the experiences you had. With all the facts students are expected to remember, it’s no wonder they forget their assignments. GBMS gives every student a planner at the beginning of the school year, and some students choose to buy their own to use. How to put it to work is up to each student. For example, Bria Aylstock uses, “color codes and lines separating each category for schoolwork most of the time, to keep organized.” Some students write down all assignments, highlight those that are homework, and then check off each thing as it is completed. Whatever system you choose, start right away and keep up with it!

Another important step is to have a separate folder or binder for each class. Some students prefer if they are all different colors and some do not. A good way to pick the colors that go with each subject is to think of the subject and the color that goes with it, such as science and green. Bria also says that, “I am a perfectionist and love everything to be neat and accessible.” Being organized is not something that comes to most students naturally; they must work at it. The New Yorker Blog states, “being organized…is the key to academic success – and to being successful in all areas of life.” Anyone can say that they “do not have the time,” or “do not need to be organized to be successful,” but in the long run being organized is a vital skill throughout all of your schooling and working years.

As everyone knows, middle school has the earliest start time in Santa Rosa County—7:30 a.m.—which means little time in the morning unless you wake up before the sun. Therefore, to save time in the morning, Scholastic’s parents’ blog suggests having backpacks and lunches ready the night before. Getting everything ready the night before allows much more time in the morning. Doing this before the last second is much better than waiting until morning and being late to school. Time management is almost as important to school success as homework and classwork.

Last year’s 8th graders Alex Martinez, Ryan Johnson, Nik Patel, and Wesley Henning show how friends make school more fun.


Friends are also essential to having a great school year. Here at GBMS, it is can be quite easy to make friends. These contacts will inspire you, help you, and keep you happy. Former 8th grader Julia Hamilton said, “Sometimes when I’m at school and I’m not feeling great that day, my friends will immediately cheer me up. When I came to GBMS in seventh grade, it was super easy making new friends.” Most kids here at the school are respectful and helpful.

Sitting with a group at lunch and around the school is the biggest worry for most students, but there is more to it than just looking like you have friends. Having supportive people around you with good morals and thoughts is very important. Our peers influence us in many ways, from the style of our clothes to our actions. Gabby Branning, 8th grade, states, “[Good people] could end up helping you and not put you in a bad place.”

Friends and peers can play a huge role in your school year. They can teach you life skills, keep up your confidence, and keep the smile on your face. “Early friendships play a vital role because they occur while key developmental changes are taking place,” states “They help teach us some of those important life skills but also shape our life.”

Don’t be afraid to talk to people, because you never know who you’ll click with! Also, choosing electives that you know you’ll enjoy groups you with people who have similar interests. Another tip when making friends, be approachable… smile and “just be kind,” says Grace Lloyd, 8th grade.

Ivieaeh Horton and Ms. Titus had a close bond last year.

Relationships with Teachers 

What is school without teachers? Teachers devote their careers to helping students learn, whether it’s English, math, science or social studies. That’s why it’s very important for students to have a good relationship with them. Always try to have a bond with your teacher, whether it is saying “hi” in the morning or smiling at them in the hallway. From the second you walk in the door on the first day to when you leave the last day, you want your teachers to know you as a good student. This bond is essential: it may make your teacher feel appreciated, and it might put you in a better mood. This way, if you‘re having trouble on an assignment, they will most likely be happy to help and may be more helpful than if they didn’t really get to know you.

The way students act around their teachers and other students reflects their character and whether they take school seriously or not. “I believe it is important to develop a teacher/student classroom connection with each and every student,” states 7th grade reading and keyboarding teacher Mr. Kevin Specht.

Smooth sailing in classes calls for good relationships with teachers, and in almost all cases that requires good behavior. Katie Schwarting, 8th grade, says, “I’m pretty quiet. I don’t talk a lot, so my teachers don’t have a problem with me.” It’s important to participate, because it shows teachers that you care about your grade, what you’re learning, and what he or she is saying. Talking can obviously get students in trouble, but it can also gain some brownie points if you’re respectful! Yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir, no sir, thank you… all make the slightest difference in how teachers view a student. Simple manners get you far. Don’t be obnoxious, and don’t interrupt to do it, but cracking a few jokes here and there never hurt anyone!

Please do not be afraid of getting help during the school year. 8th grade science teacher, Mr. Fearon, says, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help; don’t lag behind.” If something is difficult and you have trouble understanding it, go to your teacher in class, or if it’s outside of school, email them with their school email. You can find their emails by going to the “Contacts/Staff” tab on the GBMS website.

photo credit: Valeria Hanson
FLASH CARD FRENZY! Trinity Devanney and Taylor Reeves, both 8th graders from last year, study for their exams. “Flash cards are my lifeline,” said Taylor.

Stop procrastinating and start studying 

Some teachers assign homework or projects that are due a few days or even weeks later. Some students just wait until the last day to do the entire thing, while others do a small amount every day until it is due. In the end, the work will still get done, but which approach is better? In reality, the best way to complete assignments is to do a little each day. Waiting until the last minute and putting things off is called procrastinating. Ms. Danielle Djikanovic, 8th grade math teacher, says, “I think the best way to balance a heavy workload and keep from procrastinating is to use a planner diligently! Set daily goals and stick to them. Take 15-minute study breaks and then get back to work.” Why 15-minute study breaks? Study breaks allow the brain to relax and absorb the information better, so remembering will be easier. Daily goals will keep you from procrastinating and prevent having a massive amount to do in a small amount of time. While studying, it is very easy to get distracted. To prevent this, Ms. Djikanovic says, “Turn off electronics while studying.”

When asked about good study tips, former GBMS science teacher Ms. Gallagher had this good advice: “Always fill out and look at your agenda every night, read over your notes each night–then you won’t be cramming for your classes, don’t be afraid to ask your teachers questions prior to a test or to clarify a question on a test/quiz, they are a lot of work but flash cards really do help and work, and lastly find a group of classmates to study together with and build a ‘Study Buddy System.’”

As the year goes on, the difficulty of homework can increase. Plenty of students do their homework the night before it‘s due, but there are always a few who miss the mark and earn a zero. Trinity Devanney, former GBMS student, said, “I usually do my homework the night before at my house. Sometimes though I forget to and I am then forced into a panic trying to get it done on time.” Doing homework the night before prevents a lot of stress, panic, and it helps you get better grades. When doing homework, if extra credit or help is added, make sure to always try these, they could help you ace that test.

Find your balance 

Most of GBMS’ students are involved in at least one sport or participate in band. This allows for less time after school to complete homework. In order to keep a steady schedule, it is important to be organized. As stated before, a planner is a great visual way to do so. Payton Wilson, former 8th grader, plays several sports and she says, “I take my work everywhere and if I have an extra minute somewhere, I will fit in a few problems or study.” This is a great idea as long as students do not lose any important materials.

At one point or another, most students miss a few days and end up with makeup work. Payton says, “I always stay organized and try not to miss many days. If I do miss days, I make sure to get my work.” This is a great approach. Remember, balance is key!


Finally, having good behavior and respecting everyone and everything in the school may be the most important way to be a successful person. GBMS has a theme: “Respect the Phin.” It’s a reminder to the teachers, and especially the students, that showing respect for the school, other people, and yourself creates an environment everyone wants to be in.

Holland Davidson, 8th grade, believes good behavior is very important. She says, “There will be less of a chance for punishment, which can then lead to higher academic rewards, such as the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS).” Jonathan Clark, 7th grade, definitely agrees with Holland. He says, “I am hoping to get into NJHS in 8th grade, and you have to have a good behavior to do that.” Lilli Smith, 8th grade says, “Having good behavior in class is helpful because it’s respectful to your teacher and others around you. It’s also good to have a positive attitude at home while studying or doing homework so you don’t get off task.”


Listed above are general tips for any school. But what about our school, specifically? What advice do experienced middle schoolers have to offer newcomers?

Last year’s eighth grade students had some great tips for new Dolphins:

Brooke Pound said, “Be positive and get used to the building. You’ll make new friends that will last a lifetime. It’s a great place here.”

Tyler Doughty said, “Follow the school rules.”

Caleb Merrit said, “Study a lot.”

Laken Harvey said, “Block out the haters.”

Elle Bobb said, “Don’t procrastinate.”

Chloe Dickerson said, “Don’t stress.”

Sophie Stringfellow said, “Be organized.”

We’re all busy, but Lauren Kellen reminds us, “Studying a little is better than not studying at all.”

School can be stressful, but if you use some of these tips and work hard, you might find that it’s also amazing!



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Be successful by starting the school year right!