Middle school is synonymous with transition. The move from elementary school to middle school encompasses a great deal of change:
From a small setting with one primary teacher to a large building and contact with several teachers for several subject areas. The introduction of a grading system and increasingly demanding academic standards.
Making new friends with students from five different elementary schools. Wanting to participate in more independent social activities. Learning to balance social needs with academic priorities.
Entering sixth grade as a child and leaving eighth grade as a developing adolescent and all of the awkwardness that goes with growth.
The introduction of graduation requirements and Regents exams and the responsibility of selecting a course of study. Adjusting to block scheduling. The change in focus from skills to content. Developing skills for life after high school.
Ever changing boundaries and striving for more independence. Balancing work and play and the stressors of approaching adulthood.
Mind and body catching up to each other.
Opportunity vs. Crisis
Change can be viewed as a time of crisis or opportunity. After completing the many varied components of the transition programs, students look forward to their middle school and high school careers and see it as an opportunity, not a crisis. They have been well prepared, developed realistic expectations and have the skills necessary to succeed in their new setting.
Transition activities by grade level
- Sixth Grade Placement- The elementary staff and the middle school staff coordinate efforts to consider each student’s needs and background in making team placement decisions. Information aimed at helping with transition is shared between fifth grade and sixth grade staff.
- FMS Transition Night/Grade 5 Maturity Program- Counselors and administrators from FMS meet with fifth grade parents at the elementary schools to briefly describe highlights of the middle school experience.
- Fifth-Grade Parent Night at FMS- Parents attend a program at FMS featuring presentations by students, information about middle school programs and a chance to meet sixth grade teachers. Parents have an opportunity to ask questions and receive a tour of the building.
- Fifth-Graders visit Farnsworth- Sixth-graders are dismissed early so fifth-graders can spend time familiarizing themselves with the staff and facilities at FMS. Students attend an assembly and then meet with sixth-grade teachers, receive a brief introduction to some of the “special area” subjects and tour the building.
- Sixth Grade Orientation- Prior to the start of school, sixth-graders are bussed to school to meet with their teachers and prepare for the opening of school.
- Sixth Grade Ice Cream Social- A fun event where sixth-graders get to intermingle and enjoy ice cream sundaes and a good game of kickball. Students remain for activity period and have the experience of taking the late bus home so they are familiar with the process.
- Annual Reviews- Each seventh-grade student meets with his/her counselor to complete an annual review activity focusing on how interests, abilities, work habits and values relate to future decisions.
- Seventh Grade Home and Career Skills- During this 10 week course, students engage in a variety of age appropriate career exploration activities. Among them is “The Career Game,” – an interest inventory which matches their answers to a series of questions to a computer data base of career information and generates a report suggesting careers they may want to research further.
- A Look into the Future- This classroom activity asks students to imagine what their lives will be like at age 35 to stimulate a discussion about goal setting and planning for the future.
- Annual Reviews- Each eighth-grader meets with his/her counselor to review their middle school experience and articulate how these experiences relate to their future.
- Self-Awareness Through Decision Making- This classroom unit focuses on the decision making process as a tool for high school program planning and career development. Students are given information about graduation requirements and Guilderland High School Course offerings and are provided with recommendations from their eighth-grade teachers to assist them in selecting an appropriate level of courses.
- Eighth Grade Home and Career Skills- Students continue to engage in age appropriate career exploration activities. Each student completes a job shadowing experience in which they “follow” someone employed in a career they are interested in.
- Eighth Grade Parent Night at Guilderland High School- Eighth-graders and their parents attend a program at GHS where they are provided with information about various academic programs and have an opportunity to meet with representatives from the academic departments to ask questions. The ninth grade course selection process is completed at this evening program.
- Women in Math and Science/Boys’ Career Day Conferences- Career exploration activities conducted concurrently for male and female eighth-grade students — the conferences offer students a chance to find out more about career areas that interest them. Girls and boys are taken to separate locations for a half-day, where they are seated at a table with an adult career role model and about 7-8 other students. There is a keynote speech and at least three 25-minute career sessions.
- High School Visits- The first visit occurs when all eighth-graders are bussed to the high school to view the musical production. A second visit occurs at the end of the school year when eighth-graders attend an assembly during which they hear from representatives of a variety of student programs. Students are then lead on a tour of the building by high school students and spend time meeting with ninth grade teachers. They are then bussed home directly from the high school.
- Grade 9 Orientation- Prior to the opening of school, 9th graders attend an orientation program at which time they receive their schedules and can familiarize themselves with the building and staff.
- Planning for the High School Program- An evening workshop for the parents of eighth-graders presented by members of the FMS and GHS School Counseling Staff. The main goal of the program is to disseminate information about high school graduation and testing requirements as well as providing guidelines to be used in helping students select the appropriate course of study in high school.
In addition to the formal activities listed, the middle school, simply by it’s nature and focus on integrating instruction across the curriculums, aids students in developing skills which will assist in their educational and life transitions. Change is inevitable. But with careful planning and attention to the needs of students, we can assist them in adjusting to the normal developmental challenges that come with transitions.
If you feel your child is having difficulty handling the transition to or from middle school, it is important that you communicate this to your child’s teachers and/or counselor. Teachers and counselors will work with you to address the individual needs of your child in dealing with the changes he or she is experiencing.