While some may shy away from kids in their preadolescence and early teens, Watertown Middle School’s new principal said she enjoys working with students in those grades, and believes they can be successful as long as they make connections with adults at the school.
Donna Martin comes to Watertown after serving as assistant principal at McCarthy Middle School in Chelmsford for a dozen years. When she looked for her first principalship, she wanted to be closer to her home.
“Chelmsford is a great community, too,” Martin said. “When I was looking for a principalship I wanted something a little different.”
Martin said wanted to find a good fit, and she liked the area around her home in Belmont.
“This year there were a ton of different principal openings,” Martin said. “I didn’t just apply to all of them. I was looking for just the right community.”
She said she believes she has found a great place.
“I’d say 99 percent of people who called or emailed told me how Watertown Middle School is a special place,” Martin said. “I am thrilled to be here.”
Martin officially took over in July from Kimo Carter, who became an assistant superintendent in Weston. The school is much quieter during the summer, and Martin said she looks forward to the return of teachers and students in a couple weeks.
The school where Martin came from has more grades and students than WMS. McCarthy covers grades 5-8 and had more than 800 students, while Watertown Middle School has about 550 students in grades 6-8.
Martin grew up in Concord, where she went to the public schools. When she started teaching she worked in Arlington for 14 years — a dozen at the middle school and two at the high school. Her area was social studies, and Martin taught world geography, U.S. history, and world history.
She enjoys working with children in those grade levels.
“I have always liked that age,” Martin said. “They are old enough that you can engage them in deep thinking and critical thinking, but they are young enough that they are excited about learning and new ideas.”
She added that middle schoolers tend to be a fun group, and calls them misunderstood.
“They are looking for love and guidance and consistency,” Martin said. “But they won’t necessarily give it back to you.”
The guidance can be provided by teachers, councilors, coaches, or other adults at the middle school, Martin said. When she attended middle school in Concord, Martin said she made some important connections. One was with the math teacher who was the student council advisor, and another teacher ran a group for students whose parents were divorced or getting divorced. This was more unusual in those days, she said, and it helped her get through that time.
“It is definitely important that middle school students to make a connection with one or two adults in the school to help them with their problems,” Martin said.
One area Martin hopes that WMS focus on is how students use social media. She said both students and adults are learning about it at the same time, and she hopes people will understand how it works and how to keep safe
Safety is a big concern for Martin, who said that students may not realize what happens when they post something a social media site.
“I tell them, if they would not put it on a billboard in the center of town, don’t up it up on social media,” Martin said. “Nothing is ever gone forever, even Snapchat.”
Another areas of concern for Martin is understanding how you might impact others when you post on social media. In the old days, if someone was not invited to a party or gathering, they may never know or not until after it was over. With a social media post people know instantaneously, where ever they are.
“I want to work with students about not posting and not making people feel bad, even inadvertently,” Martin said.
She said these lessons might be provided in a big event, such as a school assembly, or in smaller groups in technology courses or even health classes.
Martin also looks forward to her role as principal working with teachers, observing them in the classroom and helping them with the curriculum.
“I hear a ton about how great the teaching is (at WMS) and I really want to get into the classroom, to hear from teachers and hear what the need from me,” Martin said.