Six Strategies for Easing the Transition to Middle School
Life can be traumatic for young adolescents as they leave the security of their elementary school and navigate the first few days of middle school. This major life change comes as they deal with physical awkwardness, the onset of puberty, and the unquenchable desire for peer acceptance.
Several years ago I visited more than 100 middle schools to determine which features of their orientation programs minimized student anxiety and built positive expectations. Students and faculty members deemed the following components to be most helpful to new students.
- Middle school counselors visit every elementary school to answer questions, help students with course selection and scheduling, and discuss extracurricular activity options.
- Elementary school students visit the middle school and follow a student's schedule for the day. Ending the day with an assembly gives the students an opportunity to meet the principal, counselors, club advisers, and coaches.
- During the students' visit to the middle school, elementary teachers meet with middle school counselors and administrators to discuss the transition and the needs of individual students.
- PTA/PTO meetings at each elementary school focus on the goals of middle school education and help allay parents' anxieties.
- A parent meeting at the middle school gives the principal and staff an opportunity to discuss their programs and answer questions. Concluding the meeting with a tour of the building allows parents to ask questions informally.
- Administrators make provisions for the transfer of student files. The inclusion of academic assessment results, report cards, and teacher recommendations helps ensure each new middle school student has an appropriate schedule.
Although these are the basic elements of a transition program for elementary students moving into a middle school, each middle school has unique needs and may eliminate or add components. During an annual evaluation of the orientation program, you can fine-tune adjustments that will promote a smoother transition for your young adolescents.
Robert Ricken, a former superintendent and middle school principal, is an adjunct professor of educational administration at C.W. Post College, Long Island University. He is the author of Love Me When I'm Most Unlovable—The Middle School Years, published by AMLE (formerly NMSA). E-mail: email@example.com
Copyright © 2011 Association for Middle Level Education