TRANSITIONING FROM ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TO
MIDDLE SCHOOL TO HIGH SCHOOL
In collaboration with the National Association of Elementary
School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of
Secondary School Principals (NASSP), Scholastic recently hosted
the first annual Principal Fellows
Program. While at Scholastic, the Principal Fellows reflected
on trends affecting all grade levels and discussed issues
that impact the principal's role. Below are their thoughts
on one issue that principals at all levels face as they deal
with parental concerns at critical transition times.
(left to right)
2004 Principal Fellows Patricia Welch, Les Potter, and
Merian Stewart meet with Scholastic Senior Vice President
There are many concerns that come to mind in regards to students
transitioning from elementary school to middle school or middle
school to high school. It is our perspective that those having
the most difficulty transitioning from elementary school to
middle school and then to high school are parents!
Year after year, we patiently watch parents leave the kindergarten
room, grasping hands, crying, and begging for just five more
minutes to remain in the kindergarten classroom. But separation
anxiety does not end at the kindergarten door or when parents
familiarize themselves with the teacher, program, or school.
With the first conversation about elementary school students
transitioning into middle school, all of those feelings of
fear and anxiety arise again.
Students look forward to changing classes, participating
in sports, more freedom in the halls, and the chance to hang
around older kids. Parents don't necessarily like middle school
for the same reasons their children like it.
Middle schools have an obligation to the students and parents
to make the journey as painless as possible. They need to
work with the students and adults to familiarize them to the
new school, transportation, schedules, rules, etc. Many middle
schools use an orientation program that introduces incoming
students to their new experiences. All incoming students meet
with trained older middle schoolers and teachers in an all-day
get-acquainted program. Food and fun are part of the process.
Let the parents know what is going on through meetings and
booklets, so they can reinforce these new concepts and ideas
with their children.
Parents must understand that their middle-schoolers will be going through many emotional, physical and intellectual spurts. Not all are always appreciated by the adults. Children will start 'pushing the envelope' to see what boundaries the school and the parent will set. Remind parents that this is natural. Peers will have as much, if not more, impact on youngsters' social lives as they will. Although the parents may be new at this, school officials are not! They have seen thousands of middle schoolers come and go and 99.9% came through the experience in one piece!
Keep an open door policy before school starts, as well as
after school begins, since the confusion will not stop once
school starts. School officials need to let the students and
parents know whom they can go to if they have questions or
concerns after the start of school. Normally, this might be
the principal, assistant principal, or counselor. It is very
important that an early line of communication is established
between the home and school. Parents should meet with and
know the expectations, standards, homework and grading policies,
etc. of their child's teachers. Transitioning to middle school
can be a formidable challenge, but with planning and patience,
every child should be successful.
Transitioning from junior high or middle school to high school
may provide additional stress and reluctance on the part of
parents. In addition to becoming acclimated to a new school
setting, incoming freshmen may embrace the misguided philosophy
that because of their "young adult" status, they
do not need as much parental guidance. This is quite the contrary.
Students, at this stage in their education, need parental
support even more. Students need to understand high academic
standards from parents, as well as teachers. They need to
envision how they fit in within the scheme of things. They
need to satisfy their natural urges to become a part of the
school climate, in general, while signing on to clubs, athletics,
and student government.
Parents and teachers need to be a part of that decision-making
process, so that the young adults do not rely solely on their
peers. Additionally, it is imperative that parents stand firm
on their rules and regulations for their students, even if
other parents are allowing other students to do other things.
That firm foundation will make the frightening high school
years less stressful for both the parents and the students!
Once incoming freshmen recognize that they must "start
out the way they can hold out," they will make the necessary
decisions to prepare for a successful and fulfilling future.
It is necessary for the parents to set the stage: high school
is demanding! There are no social promotions; you are expected
to complete assignments, submit homework, take part in cooperative
group activities, become a leader in student government and
express your creativity within clubs, activities, and athletics.
More importantly, parents must direct students to begin to
think along the lines of future goals! Where will they go
after high school and how do they prepare for that leg of
their future travels?
If parents can keep these pointers in mind, transition becomes
a very natural part of students' growth. It becomes a period
where students will become excited and eager to embark upon
the future transitions into adulthood.