Gena had always been an even-keeled and academically strong student, but the transition to middle school rocked her self-concept. She started failing her classes and shut down. Her complete school refusal may be unusual, but her sense of feeling untethered is not atypical. At a vulnerable age when kids most need to belong, connect, experiment and play, they often have to trade trusting relationships & recess for a rotating cast of characters & more testing. For her latest “The Meaningful Middle” column for AMLE, Phyllis spoke to psychologists, administrators and researchers about how adults can ease tweens’ transition from elementary to middle school.