Of course I am sorry to mention it, but we are just weeks before our return to school, and I’d like to focus on the student entering middle school for the first time. I’m sure you remember your first day in middle school. I’m also sure you remember your anticipation of that day. Research shows that anxiety is based on three areas of change – logistics, society, and academics. Let’s look at these differences and then offer some solutions.
Today, let’s talk about logistics. The top concern regarding a new school was how things work: would they find the right classroom? Would they be able to use the restrooms? What if their lockers wouldn’t open? What if they were tardy? Campuses are larger, there are different teachers in different classrooms for different subjects. All their “stuff” stays in a locker and they may have to share that locker with a stranger.
Here are some things you can do to help allay some of this anxiety.
•Most schools offer some sort of “back to school” event – a picnic, an ice cream social, an open house. Take advantage of any of these opportunities to create some familiarity with the new school and its teachers. Your student will learn where key places are – homeroom, cafeteria, library, bathrooms – and he will meet other transitional students. You will meet other parents. Write down names, numbers, emails. Just as I recommend study buddies for kids, I encourage parents to connect and communicate regularly.
•Explore the school’s web site with your student. Become familiar with its layout – where do you check for grades, where do you get scheduling information, where is the school calendar.
•Take your student to the school when there aren’t a lot of other people around so he can explore without the pressures of peers and adults. Introduce yourself and your student to the secretary. She is an amazing resource and usually a great comfort to students. You might take one or two of his friends also making the transition.
•Get a map of the school and mark classrooms, bathrooms, and locker. Tape this map to the inside of your student’s binder.
•Find out how much time is between each class (passing periods) and then show your student that it really is plenty of time to get stuff from her locker and to use the restrooms.
•Get the lock for the locker now and practice opening it before the pressure of passing time and the anxiety of a new school makes him “all thumbs.”
•Most schools provide planners that include school rules, class times, social and sporting events. They usually receive these the first week of school. Go through it with your son or daughter and make sure they understand the expectations and you do as well.
Interestingly, this is the age where students start pulling away from parents and beg you not to embarrass them by dropping them off at school, talking to their teachers in the hallways, or taking pictures of this momentous occasion. It’s also the time they need you the most. Stay involved in spite of their pleas.