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Smart Girl's Guide to: Middle School! (podcast transcript + video)

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

In this episode, 16-year-old actress, producer, and my amazing Smart Girl’s Podcast co-host Shay Rudolph and I chat about the transition from elementary school to middle school, and all of the new, scary, and EXCITING things we face as we start a new school!

We cover everything from navigating new friendship groups to staying on top of schoolwork and juggling all of the extracurriculars, to dealing with the anxiety of making new friends.

We are joined by the incredible Sway Bhatia, actress, singer, dancer, and comedian from Disney+’s The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. Sway gives tips about how she navigated these changes in Middle School and leaves ALL listeners with some practical advice that they can apply to their own journey in starting a new school or a new grade!

This episode is perfect for tweens, teens or adults who are raising them!

You can also watch full episodes of the show on The American Girl Podcast Network channel on YouTube and YouTube kids.

0:00:10.9 Jess Weiner: Hey everybody, welcome to the Smart Girl's Podcast.

0:00:13.0 Shay Rudolph: I'm Shay.

0:00:13.9 JW: And I'm Jess and today we are talking about...

0:00:16.7 SR: Middle school.

0:00:17.8 JW: Middle school.


0:00:20.0 JW: I mean, this is probably one of the most sought after books from the Smart Girl's Guide outside of the Care and Keeping of You is this middle school book, which is Everything You Need to Know About Juggling all of the Homework, the Teachers, the Friends. This is what this episode is inspired by. Right, Shay? We wanted to tackle all things middle school, because in our young lives it's a huge moment for us. Now, you're closer to middle school then me [chuckle] so you go first.

0:00:48.6 SR: Okay.

0:00:49.3 JW: What was middle school like for you? Talk about what it felt like? What were you scared of?

0:00:53.7 SR: Yeah, so I actually went to two different schools for middle school, I went to one for sixth and seventh grade, and then one for eighth grade and through high school, just 'cause I was starting to get into acting and everything, so I had two big moments of transitioning, but I remember when I was going into sixth grade, it was really intimidating. Luckily, I had my sister at the same school, so I felt like I at least knew one person...

0:01:17.6 JW: You knew somebody, right.

0:01:18.2 SR: That I could have by my side, but...

0:01:18.8 JW: And she acknowledged that you were her sister.

0:01:20.6 SR: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, she wasn't embarrassed of me. I don't think, but... I remember just the week before, I was so antsy to get to middle school, 'cause I was like, "This is the moment where I'm finally feeling like a grown-up kid, I'm a little bit older, I'm a little bit more independent." I planned out every single outfit for the whole first week. It was actually really fun, even though it was still scary, because it was just so new and exciting. It was a bigger campus, I had my own locker, I had different classes, a passing period, I got to walk all over the campus, I had new friend opportunities. So I wanna ask you, what was the biggest moment for you?

0:01:58.6 JW: Oh my goodness. Well, let me go in the way, way back machine to think about middle school. [chuckle] I think for me, I had to take a bus to middle school. When I went to elementary school, I lived down the street so I could walk to school. So I was traveling 30 minutes on a school bus to get to school, which is a long time.

0:02:15.5 SR: That is a long time.

0:02:16.8 JW: So buses... Before you even get to middle school, buses can be a big one. There's a lot of groups on a bus and cliques on a bus.

0:02:24.2 SR: People who were already friends before, yeah.

0:02:25.5 JW: Yeah, and people... Yes, people who knew each other from before. So that was my scary moment, which was exciting, but also really scary...

0:02:33.1 SR: Really scary.

0:02:35.1 JW: And yeah, samesies. I laid out my outfits, I didn't do Post-it notes on them, but every night I would put them over my chair, I'd just have them all ready go.

0:02:41.0 SR: Oh yeah, and did you ever pack your backpack the night before?

0:02:43.0 JW: Oh my gosh.

0:02:43.5 SR: I remember that was huge for me.

0:02:44.6 JW: Well, my parents were pretty good on helping me set a routine, which I think is really important...

0:02:49.4 SR: That is really helpful, yeah.

My bat-mitzvah photo!
My bat-mitzvah photo!

0:02:49.5 JW: When you get into middle school, because in elementary school, I could kinda like wake up, grab my lunch, roll out the door, then walk to school. Middle school, because I was prepping to get on the bus and then if I missed it, it was a lot harder for my mom to come give me a lunch, so it was checking that lunch was ready and in my lunch bag... I did not have a lunch box, I'm pretty sure I had a lunch bag, I bought a lot of school lunches, so it was easier, sometimes my mom just gave me a good two bucks or whatever then, I'm just aging myself, it cost $2. [chuckle] And then I think for me, it was about checking my homework and making sure I didn't leave anything behind. There's just more responsibilities, you start to have in middle school.

0:03:26.5 SR: Absolutely 'cause also you have to balance every single different class, which is something that is really, I think the biggest change going from having the same teacher in the same class all day. You are in the same room, the same kids, it's a very familiar environment, to go into having different teachers, different homework assignments for every single period.

0:03:41.8 JW: That homework is a big deal.

0:03:45.0 SR: It's huge. You have way more homework and way more to balance, and then on top of any extracurriculars you do, it's like, "Oh my God", it can feel really intimidating at first.

0:03:52.9 JW: That's what made me most excited though was like all the different teachers, I felt like more of a big kid. And the other thing I have to say was, a lot of people... And this is in the book, actually quite a bit, it's really funny, there's a lot in here too about... So when we talk about our appearance in middle school, it's often the times that we're going through puberty. It's... We're figuring out our appearance, and what we wanna wear, and then of course, there's school picture day.

0:04:21.5 SR: Jess... [chuckle]

0:04:23.1 JW: Did I say something sensitive? [laughter]

0:04:27.7 SR: Maybe just a little bit. [chuckle]

0:04:28.2 JW: We each have different... Okay for those that are listening, we are gonna talk a moment about Shay and my middle school pictures, and then for those who are getting to watch this, they're gonna see them, but talk about school picture day for you in middle school.

0:04:40.8 SR: Okay, Okay I guess if I have to. So sixth grade I think is by far the most memorable picture day I have ever had.

0:04:47.9 JW: Why?

0:04:50.4 SR: I always say that my sixth grade ID photo, I look like a ghost. Like I believe just look like a ghost.

Shay's sixth grade photo.
Shay's sixth grade photo.

0:04:54.6 JW: Really?

0:04:57.9 SR: I didn't wear make-up every single day in sixth grade, so my sister helped me, she was like, "You have to wear makeup for picture day, it's gonna be really bright lights, etcetera, etcetera." But... So I just put on concealer, I didn't put on blush or like anything else, it was straight up just concealer and mascara, so I was all the same tone on my face. And then I was a very giddy, happy sixth grader, so I put on the most massive smile ever, I was like... The other thing about that picture day though, was that they... They made me take off my headband, which I didn't love...

0:05:31.7 JW: Where is your headband?

0:05:31.8 SR: I'm really trying to avoid saying this, I had a cat ear headband, [chuckle] little, little cat ears, it was like...

Shay in her cat ears.
Shay in her cat ears.

0:05:42.1 JW: So cute.

0:05:42.2 SR: It actually... I loved it so much. It was this rose gold metal headband, and they had tiny little cat ears, and the cat ears had tiny little pearls...

0:05:51.2 JW: Oh my gosh.

0:05:51.3 SR: And it was actually really cute, and I was so excited, I purposely...

0:05:51.4 JW: Why did they make you take them off?

0:05:52.5 SR: I don't know, but I purposely wore it on picture day, 'cause I was like, "This is so me, I feel so cute and confident in my cat ears, I love it so much." And then they just made me take it off, they were like, "You can't wear headbands or any...

0:06:02.0 JW: They threw away your confidence.

0:06:05.0 SR: It totally threw my confidence, I was like... 'cause I also didn't really know how to stand up to authority figures at that point, and I was still really shy about that, so I didn't speak up for myself, and I didn't say, "Actually, can I just keep these on?" Because I remember there was a boy in my grade who he was wearing a full on hat and he kept it on, 'cause he made up an excuse, he said, "Hey, can I keep this on?" And so I was like, "Oh my God, if I had just said... " If I had just asked, I would have been able to keep them on and be really happy with my photo and feel really confident, but I just didn't know how to say that.

0:06:34.4 JW: I feel like we all need a bad school photo though, a little bit. It builds character. That's what I tell myself anyways.

0:06:44.5 SR: Tell me about yours please.

0:06:44.6 JW: I'll show you mine. I literally... I'm probably wearing the same color jacket that I wore in middle school. Now, I have to set the stage. You are 16. I am not 16 [chuckle] I have a lot more years than on you. So back in my day, this show called Miami Vice was really big, I grew up in Florida and all you need to know about Miami Vice, you can go Google it. But all you need to know is that pastel colors were really in like the one I'm wearing today. So I had a yellow pastel jacket, I flipped up my collar, because flipping up your collar was a big deal. However you guys, I was pretty bare-faced and I had this kind of unruly curly hair I had braces and I had acne, 'cause I was in puberty, so I had a pimple...

0:07:30.7 SR: You're a middle schooler.

0:07:32.2 JW: Yeah girl. I had a pimple right in the middle of my forehead on picture day and I didn't know how to cover it up with makeup. So I'm fully embracing the pimple.

0:07:39.7 SR: I love it.

My Miami Vice-inspired school photo.
My Miami Vice-inspired school photo.

0:07:39.9 JW: So anyway for a long time I never wanted to look at this picture, because I remember when I look at it, how insecure I felt and how... As much as I loved middle school and all that stuff it was all the things we know. I was deeply insecure about how I looked, I was trying to find my friend group, I was feeling stressed out about homework, so there was a lot of anxiety and feelings for me during that time. So I think those were the parts of middle school I forgot about because I was so stuck on the body image and the hair and which I know it can feel important, but I think now I look at middle school Jess and I'm like, "Oh, sweetheart you were doing so good. You were doing the best you could," and I just try to give her a lot of love which is why I'm gonna share her with everybody here.

0:08:26.3 SR: What's something you wish you were able to go back in time and tell her?

0:08:30.9 JW: Oh boy, I mean she would be so tickled if she knew I was sitting next to you and we were doing a show like this.

0:08:36.0 SR: Yeah.

0:08:36.6 JW: Because I think middle school Jess loved to help people, really loved talking to people and loved to help people. I would tell her that, Your life is going to be so much fun. The stuff that you're learning now, who you're developing into being, you're gonna end up really liking her. So be a little nicer to you right now, 'cause everybody. I didn't think, I realize Shay, in middle school, like we don't, that everybody was going through the awkward moments. What would you say to middle school, Shay?

0:09:09.2 SR: I'm just gonna preface my advice by saying that, I was very confident in sixth grade and I didn't even realize that other people could have an opinion about me, if that makes sense...

0:09:20.8 JW: That's awesome.

0:09:21.0 SR: So I kind of wore whatever I wanted, I just didn't really care about other people's opinions, and then when seventh grade hit I did start caring a lot more. So I think I would just say hold on to that feeling that sixth grade me had, don't care about what other people think, because it really doesn't matter. And I've been able to find some of those feelings back again as I get a little bit older and I'm in other environments where I feel a little bit safer, but that was such a precious feeling where it didn't even occur to me.

0:09:50.3 JW: Very freeing huh?

0:09:51.4 SR: Yeah, yeah where you just like you don't even think that it's a thing that other people can be looking at you, and thinking about your negatively that's incredible. And I feel like most young kids have that, and then you start to get a little more self-conscious. So if anybody's listening and you relate to that and you feel really confident in your own skin, hold on to that for as long as you can.

0:10:10.0 JW: I love that advice. I was just gonna say no matter where you're at in your life listening to this episode, I think everyone has a middle school story, they're usually very important in our development as people. So whether you're currently going through it or you're thinking about it and you're excited/nervous, part of what the Smart Girl's Guide Middle School book really does is it breaks it down in all the parts, like friends, grades, organization, teachers. And it helps you in a way that, of course I wish I had that advice back then...

0:10:41.3 SR: Me too.

0:10:42.3 JW: So we're gonna get into the book a little bit later on. But when we were thinking about a great guest to have on this show, we thought about somebody who could talk about middle school with the same heart that we're talking about it as well. So do you wanna tell everybody who's on?

0:10:54.5 SR: I would love too. So I am super excited for our guest today we are talking to Sway Bhatia who plays Sofi in the Disney+ series, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. She is an actress, singer, dancer, comedian, she really does it all, and I think she's just an incredible human being. And I think she's perfect to kinda dive into all things middle school with us.

0:11:13.9 JW: Yeah, as soon as we asked her she was like, "Yes," so she's got stories to tell and let's meet Sway.

0:11:22.4 SR: Yeah.


0:11:23.7 SR: Sway I am so excited to talk to you about middle school today. I know that we were reminiscing on what this...

0:11:30.0 JW: Oh, boy.

0:11:30.4 JW: Transition felt like, but I wanna ask you do you remember starting middle school and the feelings around that big change in your life?

0:11:39.3 Sway Bhatia: Yeah I would definitely say it was a big change. Honestly I think the thing I remember most about elementary to middle school is when we're in elementary we're in one classroom, and every subject is in one classroom one teacher. And I think that was the biggest change for me, is that when we go to middle school is that every subject is a different teacher it's in a different room. So I think just moving around, just in a big building definitely scared me a lot...

0:12:01.8 JW: Me too.

0:12:02.1 SR: Me three.

0:12:02.4 SB: And I think the expectations that society had and just maybe if you're entering the wrong room that was definitely super scary and you'd be so embarrassed. But honestly, one of my biggest fears was losing friendships, because in elementary school we were all in that one classroom, we had that one big group of people. And when we get to middle school it's just all big, all separated. So I think that was one of my biggest fears. I definitely... I wouldn't say completely lost friendships, but there were people that I was very close with in elementary school that I wasn't as close with in middle school, because we weren't in the same classes.

0:12:35.8 JW: It changes.

0:12:36.7 SR: Me too yeah, it totally changes and I wanna say did you have a difficult time making new friends after you lost some of those friends? Was there a period of time where you were kind of floating around friend groups, 'cause I know I was. And before you get anchored down with your people for middle school?

0:12:53.8 SB: Yeah there definitely was that floating time where it was like, "Okay are those people really my friends? Or do they have a new friend group that I'm not part of that anymore?" So it's like.

0:13:02.3 SR: It's like bouncing back and forth between people, and it was a really weird feeling for sure. I think that was definitely a big struggle until you found that group that you were able to say, this is my friend group, but still I am friends with a bunch of people, but finding that one group of people that you're really safe with and that is your little lunch table people.

0:13:23.9 JW: Yeah. Let's talk about the lunch table, because that was my big... If I had a deciding moment between elementary school where you're right, you're in one classroom, but also lunch didn't feel as intimidating as it did when you got to middle school. Especially if you're changing friend groups, where do you sit? Who are you sitting with? And also by the way, what are you bringing for lunch? I remember that being really stressful. Was it that way for you, Sway?

0:13:47.1 SB: Yeah. I think lunch was a very funky time. I'm a big eater. So I love eating. I always look forward to lunch.

0:13:54.0 JW: Yeah.

0:13:54.0 SB: But then the peer pressure about people got there.

0:13:57.8 JW: Yes.

0:13:58.1 SB: So every table is sort of themed. If it makes... If that makes sense. One group would be the popular group, one group would be like the athletic group, and one people would be like the nerdy group and it's like you're put into a category when you sit down at that table. And I think that's one of the worst parts about middle school especially, and it sometimes transfers over into high school as well, which I'm just starting to experience. But I think we all have that jumping around stage where it's like, can we sit there or are we restricted? Because we're not part of the lacrosse team, we can't sit there. But I'm friends with some of those people or am I really friends with those people? It's just like a really messed up stage. And I feel like I definitely sat at 20 different tables during my high school.

0:14:43.3 JW: Really. But I wanted to also still talk about like the food part of it. Because you said you really love lunch and you looked forward to lunch. What were some of the pressures around food in middle school?

0:14:53.8 SB: Yeah. You know, my mom had always packed me lunch. I was never the one that brought money for lunch. And I actually I had have to beg my mom to [laughter] to let me buy lunch at school because that's what the popular group did. So, you know, we were all under that pressure to stand in the line and get the really oily pizza for some reason.


0:15:10.9 SR: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

0:15:11.8 SB: And like the salad that was just lettuce [laughter] So, you know...

0:15:16.3 JW: This is bringing me back.

0:15:17.9 SR: Me too.

0:15:18.5 SB: Yeah. And like in the mean time I have...

0:15:21.8 JW: And Tater tots. Tater tots was a good day.

0:15:23.8 SB: The dried tater tots... We all went through that.

0:15:27.4 SR: This is so accurate.

0:15:28.5 SB: So I mean I was, yeah... I was grateful enough to have my mom pack me nice little, you know, bowtie pasta that she whipped up at home, like the morning... In the morning or like the night before while I was still sleeping. And I just remember being that kid with the bag and the thermos.

0:15:44.8 SR: Me too. I feel like this is just a universal experience. Oh my god. Me too.

0:15:49.8 JW: Did you have bowtie pasta as well?

0:15:51.8 SR: Honestly? Yeah. And like sandwiches. And you had like the cute matching lunchbox that went with your backpack.

0:15:57.3 SB: Exactly.

0:15:57.4 SR: And it was like.

0:15:57.9 SB: That matched the bag. And the thermos and the fork and knife and...

0:16:02.3 SR: Yeah, exactly.


0:16:04.8 JW: I was the kid buying greasy pizza.

0:16:06.8 SR: Oh, you were the cool kid.

0:16:08.9 SB: I just also remember being the one that like always brought a buffet. So I like, along with my pasta, I had like a bag of goldfish, a bag of chips, Like a bag of fruits.

0:16:17.3 JW: I would've sat next to you in a heartbeat. Did you swap food with people? Because I was a big trading...

0:16:23.4 SR: That was a big thing.

0:16:24.3 SB: Oh yeah. That was... That's like... That's the trend. Oh yeah. It's... I remember like my best friend and I would definitely like share half of our lunch.

0:16:32.0 JW: Yeah.

0:16:32.3 SB: Like half would go to her, half would good to me. But honestly I'd only eat like 10% of my lunch, 'cause everyone else would be like taking my goldfish or taking my chips.

0:16:39.6 JW: Yeah. We talked about kind of the pressure of middle school and the change and you know, the organization, finding classes, making new friends. But there's also a really cool side I think, or can be a cool side of middle school, which is you're figuring more things out about yourself, right? You get to take more classes than you did in elementary school. You get to meet new people. That's the upside of the new friends.

0:17:03.3 SR: Yeah you have different classmates. It's not just the same for the whole day and the whole year. Like you...

0:17:07.7 SB: Right.

0:17:09.7 SR: You get to circle through different teachers and different topics and classmates and all that stuff.

0:17:11.8 JW: So I feel like my world opened up more. Did you feel that way? And like what were maybe some of the good parts of middle school that you remember?

0:17:19.3 SB: Yeah, for sure. I think middle school had their pros and cons, right? So when we're switching classes, you can be losing friendships but you can also be making new friends. And I did love the idea of having so many more subjects and being with different teachers, experiencing different types of learning. So in sixth grade we had quarters for languages. So the first quarter was French, next was Spanish.

0:17:43.5 JW: Oh, cool.

0:17:43.5 SB: I think we did Italian and Mandarin, and I remember it was really cool to be able to experience a little bit of all those languages before you had to just go straight and pick a language.

0:17:51.9 SR: Yeah. That's amazing.

0:17:53.3 SB: So yeah. And we didn't have that in elementary school, actually, we didn't have languages at all. And that was the really weird part is that our teacher taught every subject and they had to teach Spanish, meaning using Duolingo [laughter], which...

0:18:07.4 SR: Yeah. Yeah.

0:18:09.3 SB: I just remember that being so iconic.

Touching up our makeup in-between scenes.
Touching up our makeup in-between scenes.

0:18:11.4 JW: What language did you pick after you took all those quarters?

0:18:14.5 SB: I picked Mandarin and I don't know if that was a good choice or not, because now I'm currently struggling.

0:18:19.4 JW: Really?

0:18:21.3 SB: Yeah, it is really hard. But I remember picking Mandarin because our middle school Mandarin teacher was super sweet, and the things she taught us was really cool, 'cause I remember we were practicing how to use chopsticks with Skittles. So...

0:18:34.3 JW: That's very cool.

0:18:35.3 SR: That's fun.

0:18:35.9 SB: Yeah. I remember like the advantage of being in the mandarin class was that you got to eat a bunch of stuff.

0:18:43.3 SR: Eat skittles. Yeah. Yeah.

0:18:43.4 SB: 'Cause there was even a Mandarin...

0:18:43.8 JW: I mean knowing Mandarin is gonna be really helpful in the world. Knowing any second, third language is really helpful. But...

0:18:49.4 SB: Languages is great.

0:18:51.0 JW: Yeah.

0:18:51.3 SB: And even the other curricular classes, like we had art, we had film, television, we had...

0:18:56.5 JW: Oh wow.

0:18:56.6 SR: That's amazing.

0:18:57.3 SB: Computer. Yeah. We had a bunch of great electives that I loved.

0:19:00.8 SR: Yeah. I didn't have any of that. That's really cool. And I wanna talk about, you said that you chose Mandarin because of your teacher. Your teacher was really awesome. And I wanna talk about the impact that good teachers have on us and how they might change our relationships with certain subjects. Like I know for me, I had some certain math teachers that really made me just despise math even more than I already did. So that's saying a lot. But I wanna ask, were there certain teachers that you maybe struggled with that were harder for you or some that were better?

0:19:27.9 SB: Yeah, I completely agree that teachers have a big impact on the subject. I have a weird love for math, so I've also just had really great math teachers.

0:19:36.7 JW: That's great.

0:19:36.9 SB: So I actually had a math teacher in seventh grade I believe, who was just the sweetest person ever. And I still literally think about her all the time whenever I do anything math related. And she'd always like message me during middle school saying if you ever need help with anything, even when I was in eighth grade and she wasn't my teacher anymore, she'd be like, If you ever need help with anything, I'm here.

0:19:57.4 JW: That's the best part, the teachers.

0:19:58.8 SR: Yeah, that's really sweet.

0:20:00.3 SB: Those supportive teachers are so important. And I think that can impact a lot.

Recording the Smart Girl's podcast.
Recording the Smart Girl's podcast.

0:20:04.7 JW: Oh yeah. And I think that that is what stresses kids out, right, in middle school, because if you get tough teachers or teachers you don't like, and sometimes that does happen, you get into a rotation in your classes where you're not clicking and then it can be on top of everything really hard to stay focused.

0:20:20.8 SB: Right.

0:20:21.1 SR: Yeah. And even teachers that assign a lot of homework or just don't explain things in a way that makes sense to you, that was a huge one for me. They weren't necessarily bad teachers, other people loved them. They just explained things in a way that didn't make sense to my brain at all. And it made the class so difficult.

0:20:36.1 SB: And I think that's also one of the struggles of middle school is that with elementary school, we were all used to that one teacher, is that there's so many different teaching techniques that we have to learn to cope with because when we get to the real world, no one's gonna... Even when we get to college, like no professor is gonna be the same, every...

0:20:53.8 JW: That's right.

0:20:55.1 SB: You're not always gonna like your coworkers, your, you know, people that you work with and things like that. So you... I guess it's sort of prepping you.

0:21:02.2 JW: I teach university right here in California. I teach at USC and I always make my students do group projects. And I know we all hate group projects because if you're like us and you're like really perfectionist, Type A, you're the group project leader. And then there's always people in the group who don't pull their weight.

0:21:21.6 SB: Do anything.

0:21:22.0 JW: However, what I tell my students all the time is welcome to real life. When you go out in the world and work, you will likely... You're always working as a group. You never get out of a group project because you have to work with people.

0:21:33.3 SB: Exactly.

0:21:33.5 JW: No matter what you're doing, you guys are performers, you're working with people all day long. I'm a consultant, I run this... I work with people all day long. You never escape it. So I always say that, make peace with it. Make peace with your role in a group project 'cause that is life, babies.

0:21:48.8 SB: Yeah. Right. Yeah. I completely agree with that. And like I said, even though we go through so many struggles through middle school and high school and whatnot, it's all preparing us for the real world. It'll help you in the long run.

0:22:02.0 JW: If you could look back at middle school, Sway, and give her some advice, some direction, some mantra to think about as she navigates middle school now, what would you say to her?

0:22:12.6 SB: You know what? I think all those struggles that I went through ended up helping me in the long run, like I said. So I think what I'd say to my younger self is just push through it. Deal with it because it'll end up being something good.

0:22:27.2 JW: It'll get better. Learn from it. You will get to the other side of it.

0:22:31.2 SR: Yeah, you will. You will.

0:22:31.7 SB: Yes, you'll make it.

0:22:32.4 JW: Yes.

0:22:32.8 SB: You'll make it. Don't drop out.

0:22:36.2 JW: No. No, definitely not. And don't give up. I think part of the big thing that Shay and I love to talk about on this show is just making sure people know they're not alone. That's why we wanna talk to amazing folks like you so that we share... The more stories we share, the more we can hear ourselves in each other's story.

0:22:51.7 SB: Totally.

0:22:51.9 JW: Sway, thank you so much for being with us today. We love having you.

0:22:54.3 SB: Thank you.

0:22:54.7 SR: Thank you.

0:22:54.9 SB: Thank you for having me. I had so much fun having this conversation.

0:22:58.6 SR: Me too.


0:23:01.6 JW: I loved Sway.

0:23:03.5 SR: She is so sweet. That was an amazing conversation.

0:23:06.0 JW: And she said all the things we were thinking before we even asked them.

0:23:09.7 SR: Yeah, I was just about to say like all... Half of my questions just disappeared because she answered them on her own.

0:23:14.9 JW: I know. Lunch room, big one. So my big takeaway from this is I can't believe how much we all ate greasy pizza in middle school.

0:23:22.2 SR: Okay. Actually, my big takeaway was that everything was such a universal experience. And I'm sure everybody listening is like, "Oh my god, me too. I did that too." Like the colored thermos and the matching utensils and the greasy pizza, the dry tater tots, all of it. Like we all experienced that.

0:23:36.8 JW: Figuring out where to sit. Being anxious about that.

0:23:39.5 SR: Yeah. Yes. Everything.

0:23:40.4 JW: We also had... You had some good points too in there about like the friendship piece and I love that... I mean loved that she said that she was worried about losing the friends as you went to middle school. A lot of stuff we've been talking about.

0:23:53.7 SR: Yeah. And I can totally relate to that because I think in elementary school for everybody it's kind of the whole grade is together, like all the girls in fifth grade sit together and then you go to middle school and it's like multiple schools coming into one and then everybody branches off to people that they have more common interests with and then you're kind of left on your own a lot of the time.

0:24:13.0 JW: You know what you just made me think about though Shay, I actually think for some people that might even be a good thing because if you didn't find your group in elementary school or if you are just growing into being a different person, like middle school could offer you all these opportunities to find more people that you have things in common with too.

0:24:30.3 SR: Yeah. It was a good thing for me actually. I was really intimidated by the thought of like, oh my God, there's so many new people, I'm gonna have to figure out where I fit in. But I was also really excited about it because I was like, I can maybe find my like-minded people. That all my other past friends are finding. So it is a good thing.

0:24:47.5 JW: Yeah. Listen, I mean to be fair, middle school is great for some, not for everybody. But the point is you've got a book like this that helps you get through it. So I wanted to do a little... These aren't really quizzes, but they're like scenarios that are in the book that I thought came up in our interview with Sway. It might be really cool just to have a little bit more time on. So do you wanna do the first one? Actually, there's three that we liked and I think let's start with the first one.

0:25:10.8 SR: Yeah. Okay. So the first scenario is last school year I was late almost every day. Next year, I'm going to middle school and I'll have to get up even earlier. I need a plan to help me get ready in the morning, help.

0:25:21.8 JW: So organization and time management are really big things when you hit middle school because the time you wake up is gonna be different. The amount of homework you do after school is gonna be different. So you might be staying up later and getting up earlier and getting more organized. So again, since middle school is closer in your memory than mine, talk to me about what you did to get organized? What would you say to this person?

0:25:45.6 SR: I would say... This might be very specific to me, but I color coded every single one of my subjects, so.

0:25:51.0 JW: Super Virgo.

0:25:51.4 SR: I know. I had like green for science and blue for English, all those things where you know that like, oh, that homework goes in that folder and it matches in the page in my binder, etcetera, etcetera. So, you know... You have a certain association where this color is this homework, did I check off my green or my blue or whatever. And then in terms of getting up earlier in the morning, that was actually really hard for me too, 'cause I am not a morning person.

0:26:14.7 JW: No?

0:26:15.3 SR: So I think... No, no, not at all. I hate waking up early, but I think just making sure you fall asleep at an earlier time to make up for the amount of sleep that you're losing in the morning. Because we're so used to at elementary school maybe waking up at like 8:00 AM versus 6:00 AM for middle school, so fall asleep earlier if you can. And then also in turn, try to get your homework done earlier. I also wanna say planners really, really help. Writing down the homework as you get assigned it in class, so then you don't forget later, that really helps. And that's another visual thing.

Behind the scenes, shooting TikToks!
Behind the scenes, shooting TikToks!

0:26:47.0 JW: Let me read the second scenario, which is really cool in the middle school book. And this one is, I just started sixth grade and I was getting very good grades in sixth grade, and now in middle school, I am getting bad grades. And I wanna show... I don't wanna show them to my parents 'cause I don't want them to be disappointed in me. So one of the things I was thinking about with this is grades do make a really big difference from the beginning of middle school, right to the end. You're learning how to juggle different teachers, different classes and different teachers at different styles, so.

0:27:17.9 SR: And what you're learning gets harder...

0:27:18.8 JW: Yes.

0:27:19.4 SR: As you get into higher grades, so I feel like that's a normal thing to be struggling at first to find your pacing.

0:27:24.4 JW: Yeah, and listen, by the time... If your middle school starts in seventh grade, like mine did, or if you're in sixth grade and you're just starting, like sometimes you do feel like you've kind of conquered some things and then there's lots of new things. But in this section of the book which I really called Grade Grief, it's just some really good examples of how to think about grades, because, listen, let's be honest, grades kind of rule our life when you start to get into middle school and high school, everybody puts a focus on grades. If you decide to go to college or you wanna go to college, people talk about how important grades are then. But I do wanna offer some balance to people listening that grades are just... This is how I think about it, then I'll share with you what's in the book. Grades are just a reflection of you in a moment of time about what you know or remember on something. It is not about your self-worth, it is not about how smart you are. Sometimes it can be about how well you take tests and memorize things.

0:28:21.9 SR: That's a huge one for me. I will get great grades on the homework and then really not great grades on the tests. And it's so hard to remind yourself that that grade doesn't define you, it doesn't mean anything about yourself, like you were just saying, so.

0:28:34.1 JW: Yeah. It's important. I just wanna say that for all my folks out there struggling with grades, this does not mean you're not capable, and so this was a cool... This was good advice in here, I think it says, "Don't take it personally." And that's what we were just talking about. Just because a teacher might give you a tough comment on a paper or you might not get the grade that you want, it is not a reflection of you. And then take the bad and make it good, which I really like this, which I think this is a great educational tool in general. The comments on your paper, like let's say you get comments from your teacher, they're telling you what's expected next time. So learn from it, it's kind of like our always learning, always growing kind of mantra here, use it as a checklist for the next homework assignment or the next paper. Just use it as feedback and again, not like taking it so personally that it's about you. It's just about how that teacher wants something to be done.

0:29:27.4 SR: Yeah, totally. Okay, we have another scenario.

0:29:30.5 JW: Okay. Okay. Hit me.

0:29:31.5 SR: So this one says, next year I'm going to middle school, I'm afraid I'll lose my two best friends and I don't want to. What should I do?

0:29:38.5 JW: What should they do?

0:29:40.1 SR: So this is a really tough one, 'cause I had best friends in elementary school too, that I kind of felt like I was gonna lose as I went into middle school. But that was also something I wanted. I wanted to make new friends. So I think just go into it knowing that there are so many different things that can happen. You can make new friends, you can lose those friends, you can keep those old friends and just kind of grow with whatever happens. Making new friends isn't a bad thing, and it doesn't have to be super scary because sometimes those new friends can turn into those two best friends that you have. And then you have new best friends. Or sometimes holding on to them is what happens, and then you have life-long friends. So just know that there are different things that can happen and prepare yourself for all those scenarios I think.

0:30:23.1 JW: Yeah, and it's pretty normal that you might grow apart at different...

0:30:24.6 SR: It's very normal. Yeah.

0:30:26.0 JW: of your life if you're doing different things or if you're in different schools. But I think as we've talked about in some other episodes or we will. Friendships grow and they change just like we grow and we change.

0:30:37.0 SR: Yes.

0:30:37.5 JW: And middle school is going to be no different.

0:30:40.4 SR: Yeah.

0:30:40.5 JW: Yeah, for sure.


0:30:41.2 JW: Oh my gosh, Shay, I really do feel like middle school Jess, if I was listening to this would be so excited just to know A, I'm not alone, B, everyone's eating greasy pizza, but mostly that these ups and downs are pretty normal.

0:30:55.1 SR: They're so normal.

0:30:57.0 JW: And like Sway said, we'll get to the other side of them.

0:30:58.8 SR: You will.

0:31:00.4 JW: And we're doing it together. Thank you all so much for listening to the Smart Girl's Podcast with Shay and Jess. If you're an adult or a parent listening right now with a smart girl in your life, we would love for you to follow us and write us a review if you don't mind. Podcasts and reviews really go together, so we would love for you to write us a review, and of course, if you're on social media, you can find me @imjessweiner, you can find Shay @shayrudolph and of course @americangirlbrand. If you're interested in these Smart Girl's books or learning more about what we're up to here, we're on Instagram and TikTok, and that's where we're gonna be posting some behind the scenes content of making this show, and of course some great clips from these interviews.

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