The students filed excitedly into the cafeteria, choosing seats near friends as they waited for the presentation to begin.
The end of school was just around the corner, but that’s not what had these fifth graders abuzz. They were about to hear a preview of next year – the start of middle school. They had looked forward to this official introduction and tour of middle school for weeks, and now here it was.
They heard about school expectations and opportunities. They asked questions about lunchroom seating and choosing a foreign language course. They expressed fears about forgetting a locker combination or arriving late to class. They walked the halls with 8th grade tour guides who pointed out various places of interest: the gym, locker rooms, art room and library. They wondered later about homework and merging with kids from other schools.
For many children, middle school signifies a time of increased independence: lockers to call their own, switching classrooms for different subjects, and, in some cases, permission to wear flip-flops and chew gum in class.
But there’s also a certain level of uncertainly about “moving up” – that unsettling feeling that comes with any significant change.
As 5th graders finish their elementary years and look to the transition to middle school, any excitement about the big move is tempered slightly by fears about the unknown: Will I make friends? Like my teachers? Will I get lost in the maze of hallways? Remember my schedule?
As with any challenge, being prepared can ease the transition. How can we as parents help?
- Let’s talk about it. Anxieties are normal! Discuss questions and fears to help ease stress around the move to middle school.
- Encourage organization. An organizer/agenda to write down daily homework assignments can help students keep track of work, projects and due dates.
- Don’t let the “summer slide” win out! Maintain a habit of reading and practicing math facts to avoid losing some of the knowledge gained during the school year.
- Visit the school during the summer to walk the hallways and become familiar with the school’s layout.
- If your child has a great deal of anxiety about the start of 6th grade, contact school officials to request a class schedule in advance. That way, a student can map out a route to classes to feel a bit more at ease when the doors open in September.
- Ease into the new schedule by practicing the school routine, including adjusting bedtime and wakeup time. For many students, middle school means leaving home an hour earlier. Don’t wait until the last day of summer to reset an internal clock.
Change is difficult, but a little preparation will ease the move to middle school.