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A Kid's-Eye View of Middle School: Getting Ready

We asked a new middle-schooler — and his mom — to tell us how moving to middle school feels from the inside. In part 1 of 3, summer means preparation and anticipation.

By Alex Wight and Brenda Wight | null null , null
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Oh, how different a parents' perception can be from her child's! After middle school parent night, I asked my son to document his thoughts on entering middle school. I made an account of my expectations, apprehensions, and anticipations too. It's probably no surprise that what I found when reading his journal (with permission, of course) was surprising!

June 6, 2007

Mom: Parent Night
I looked around at the sea of new faces as the principal introduced the middle school faculty. Each teacher stood for recognition and parents applauded while trying to balance the stack of summer reading material, handouts, and a copy of the PowerPoint presentation. We received mock class schedules, an overview of student services, and an assurance that all faculty members are reachable via telephone or email throughout the year.  

I was particularly nervous about bus transportation since Alex hadn't previously taken the bus to school. What if he lost his bus pass? What if he left it in his locker? Would he try to walk the three miles home? When I voiced my fears, I learned that the pass was a formality, and that drivers get to know their students the very first day. I was relieved to hear many parents asking equally anxious questions.

Next, the principal divided us into groups for a school tour. As the tour came to an end I started to feel as if the middle school transition is seamless — at least the confidence radiated from the faculty made it appear so. Either way, parent night offered insight and helped to extinguish much of my initial anxiety.

Alex: Middle School Tour
I was excited when I heard I would have the chance to tour the middle school with my 5th grade class. Even though I was already familiar with the building it would be fun to see it with my friends. Last summer I attended a rotation program at the middle school and got to know my way around the school. I plan to attend the same program this summer. I've chosen summer courses that interest me like science, chess, and a creative writing course.

Each elementary school took a turn visiting the middle school. We were assigned a 6th grade buddy who brought each of us to a classroom where we were given an assignment to work on. Looking at the classroom I noticed it seemed much different from our 5th grade classroom. In elementary school we had individual desks which held our notebooks, and here the chairs were attached to a desk that didn't have any storage space. There were blackboards instead of white dry-erase boards, and the hallways were lined with lockers instead of open storage with coat hooks. We were told there would be new lockers installed. I think it will be great to have a brand-new locker!

June 21, 2007: Last Day of Elementary School

Mom: With the close of the school year I begin to think how comfortable elementary school had become. Alex was surrounded by a mere 40 peers in his grade, making his choice of friends quite limited. He arrived each day to a school where everyone from the principal to the custodian knew each other by name. As he emerges from the familiar building today, reality hits . . . my boy is now officially a middle-school student! 

It's not the first time I've felt anxious during Alex's educational journey. Each step forward brings a mixture of emotion — first preschool, then elementary, and now another step forward into middle school. I remember holding my son's hand as he entered kindergarten, how it comforted us both; but holding his hand as he enters middle school is simply unheard of.             

Alex's 5th grade experience offered academic and social structure mirroring that of middle school life. Students were introduced to the home-room concept, independent study habits, and a daily planner for organizing their homework. Since the school has taken a proactive role in preparing my son socially and intellectually, I think it's important for me as a parent to prepare him emotionally. But I'm still not sure how to make the transition as smooth as possible.         

Alex: Yeah, I'm off to middle school! I'm not nervous at all, especially considering this year will be the first time I take the bus to school. I'm fine with the idea. I'm already an early riser but my sister would be chronically late!

Middle school will be so different, especially because the last five years I've been in a small school with only two classes of kids my age. The middle school will have many more opportunities to make new friends because four other elementary schools in my town will have kids moving into 6th grade. It will be so cool to go from 20 boys to more than 100 in the same grade!  

July 9, 2007: Time for Summer Camp

Mom: Last summer, Alex confided that he would never want to go to overnight camp . . . which makes it even more surprising that he's excited about attending a sleepaway camp just one year later!

It really is amazing to see my children mature as quickly as they grow. Nervousness fades (his and mine), replaced with confidence and a thirst for adventure. The week at summer camp proved that Alex can pick up after himself, make sound choices, live in a cabin with 10 other boys and come away from it all with great memories and a sense of accomplishment.

July 25, 2007: Halfway Through Summer

Mom: I've been speaking with friends who have children one year ahead of mine. They've offered insight on what worked, what didn't, and what to expect. But I know that no two children are alike, so I tried to focus on definitive advice and discard personal opinion.

Alex: This summer was the first time I was assigned a mandatory reading list. Out of three books, one was a must-read, and I had the choice between the other two. The elective book I read, Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief by Wendelin von Draanen, was okay, but I wouldn't have chosen it on my own. The mandatory book (Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix) was great, and I would have easily snatched it off the library shelf. One month left before middle school starts!

NEXT: The first day finally arrives.

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