FALMOUTH — Middle school is the time when kids begin to transition into a more complete sense of self and to think about the values and principles that will guide their decision-making as adults.
It’s the challenges, the growth and the opportunities of this stage of adolescence that drew Matthew Hamilton to his new position as a school counselor at Falmouth Middle School, which will start the new school year Sept. 5.
Hamilton joins the school district after working for Harpswell Coastal Academy, a charter school with a focus on project-based learning, for the past couple years.
He held several different posts at the academy, but most recently served as the middle school principal, where he was able to “focus on creating a safe and positive school culture to support middle school learners,” Hamilton said this week.
Prior to joining the staff at Harpswell Coastal Academy, Hamilton was a counselor at Bath Middle School for 12 years.
“In Bath, I taught a daily guidance class to sixth-graders, worked on successfully transitioning students into BMS and to Morse High School … ran social/emotional groups and helped cooperatively solve challenges to create a great learning environment for all students,” he said.
At Falmouth Middle, Hamilton will work with incoming sixth-graders, as well as eighth-graders who are preparing to move on to high school.
“As a middle school (guidance) counselor you are a resource to students, families and staff, with the goal of helping students find success in their school community,” Hamilton said about his overall work.
In addition, he said the middle school guidance staff also provides students with individual and small group counseling, as well as classroom lessons.
“I love working with students to help them create the vision of what they want to become later in life, both professionally and as a human being,” Hamilton said.
“I also enjoy working with middle schoolers as they navigate adolescence and all the fun that goes along with the transition from childhood to early adulthood.”
The issues facing middle schoolers are unique to their time of life, he said, and include “navigating increased autonomy at school, managing peer relationships and (dealing with) an emerging sense of self.”
“Then there are the more modern aspects that go with these traditional challenges, such as technology and social media,” Hamilton added.
“There really seems to be an increase of generalized anxiety to fit in socially and to perform academically. Kids (at this age) have a lot going on.”
Hamilton said his desire to “positively impact the life of a young person is what drew me to the profession.”
His mother was a teacher and a positive role model at Lawrence High School in Fairfield, Hamilton said, and “I could see the impact she had on my classmates and friends.”
Along with his mother, Hamilton’s other role model was his seventh-grade homeroom teacher, Lars Jonassen, who also taught math and science.
“Mr. J. was super helpful in my navigation of all the social-emotional and academic challenges at that stage of my life. Mr. J. was also a great coach on the field and in the classroom,” he said.
But what really sold Hamilton on working with middle school kids was his internship at Memorial Middle School in South Portland.
“I made a great connection with my mentor, Mark Carignan, who was also into adventure-based learning and counseling activities. It was my work with Mark that allowed me to envision my future” as a school counselor.
Hamilton holds both a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in counseling from the University of Southern Maine and is working on earning a master’s in school leadership at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.
He applied for the school counselor position at Falmouth Middle because he knows other educators in the district and “they all have wonderful things to say about the Falmouth school system and the community, as well as Falmouth Middle School.”
“I knew when the position was posted that it was too great of an opportunity to pass up,” he said.
“As a school counselor and school leader, my focus is always on creating positive, trusting and helpful relationships,” Hamilton said about his goals for the new school year.
“A smooth and successful transition for my eighth-graders to the high school is (also) a high priority for me,” he added. “Overall, my goal is to learn where I can add value and work as a leader in those areas.”
Matthew Hamilton is the new guidance counselor at Falmouth Middle School. His focus will be on sixth- and eighth-graders.