As Your Child Moves from Elementary School to Junior High
Your child is growing up. As s/he ages, challenges that s/he faces change as well. This article will focus on the challenges of moving from elementary school to junior high school and how you can help prepare your child for moving from elementary school to junior high school.
In most elementary schools, students are assigned to one classroom. They spend the majority of their school day in that classroom. The time away from that classroom is typically spent in the gymnasium (in physical education class), on the playground (at recess), or in the library (at study time).
In most junior high schools, students are assigned to a different classroom for each class that they take. They may have a math class in one room and an English class in another room. There is an allotted period of time between classes in which they must navigate from one room to the other.
Because junior high schools tend to be larger buildings than elementary schools, your child will likely fear not being able to find his/her classrooms . . . or not being able to do so in a timely manner, thus making him/her late to class. To alleviate these fears, you and your child should participate in the orientation offered by the junior high school. Take a tour of the building. Using your child’s class schedule, find his/her classrooms. Walk the route that s/he will walk from first period to the last period of each day. Meet the teachers that will be teaching your child in the upcoming semester. Give your child an opportunity to develop a comfort level with the teachers before the academic year begins.
Storage of and Access to Academic Materials
In most elementary schools, students are assigned a desk in which their books, binders, notepapers, and other academic materials can be stored. As students switch from studying English to math, for example, they need only open their desks and retrieve the new subject’s text book.
In most junior high schools, students are assigned a locker in which their books, binders, notepapers, and other academic materials can be stored. As students switch from studying English to math, for example, they need either to allow time between classes to visit their locker and retrieve the new subject’s text book or forsake their locker in favor of carrying a full backpack with them from class to class.
To help your child adapt to this changing protocol, determine the amount of time in takes your child to navigate from classroom to classroom. This can be done during the tour referenced above. If time is short, or if your child experiences anxiety about the time interval, it may be best for your child to, at least initially, carry all his/her academic materials in a backpack. As s/he becomes more comfortable with his/her movements between classrooms, s/he may become more confident that s/he has the time to store materials in his/her locker and carry only one class’ materials with him/her at any time.
In most elementary schools, students are with the same classmates throughout their school day.
In most junior high schools, students are with different classmates in each class throughout their day.
To help your child adapt to this change, you will first need to assess your child’s level of introversion or extroversion. An extroverted child may embrace the opportunity to interact with new students in each class, whereas an introverted child may find that opportunity intimidating. Visit with your child’s teachers to let them know of any fears your child may have in this matter. Teachers may seek to “draw out” an introverted child who is feeling intimidated by his/her new circumstance. Also, you and your child can speak with your child’s friends and/or their parents to determine if your child and his/her friends will have any classes together. An introverted child will adapt better if there is at least one familiar face in each of his/her classrooms. Also, during the orientation tour of the junior high school (referenced above), you can introduce yourself and your child to other parents and children in attendance at the tour. Encourage your child to visit with these children. This will create potentially more familiar faces in the new classrooms.
In late elementary school, students begin adolescence. Physical and hormonal changes begun in late elementary school can be intensely experienced throughout junior high school. Mood swings, acne, gender-specific bodily developments, and other biological challenges can create increasing difficulties for children as they proceed through the junior high school years.
To help your child prepare for these challenges, speak with your child about the specific changes that s/he can expect in his/her body and in the bodies of the opposite gender as well. Discuss ways to minimize the negative impact of these changes. For example, you and your child can visit a dermatologist to discuss treatment for acne. You should do so when the acne first appears. Do not wait until your child has been struggling with acne for a prolonged period of time.
The biological challenges referenced above are causal and concurrent with social challenges. Mood swings make in-school physical fights far more common in junior high school than in elementary school. As bodies develop along gender lines and hormones assert themselves, adolescents vie for social positioning and attracting a prospective love interest. This broad-scale social realignment can be disorienting, frightening, and emotionally scarring.
To help your child prepare for these social challenges, you should tell your child what kinds of behaviors s/he may observe in others and reinforce what behaviors you expect of him/her (i.e., it is never acceptable to engage in physical fights, conflicts should be resolved through calm discussion that is focused on mutual understanding, conflicts that cannot be so resolved should either be referred for alternative peaceful resolution or by distancing oneself from the source of the conflict, and honesty and kindness are always to be expected). You should inform your child about referral sources for peaceful conflict resolution (i.e., student review panels, school administration, etc.). You should tell your child that not all adolescents will behave properly, as you expect your child to do, but that you expect your child to exhibit patience and tolerance as his/her classmates struggle with their own behaviors. Further, you should ensure that your child has a solid social support network (including good friends as well as family members) who will provide support and comfort when hurt feelings inevitably arise during adolescent social challenges.
As grade levels advance, coursework typically becomes more challenging. For example, typical mathematics progression is as follows: basic math, algebra I, geometry, algebra II, trigonometry, calculus I, and calculus II.
To help your child adapt to these challenges, you can encourage him/her by reminding him/her of your confidence in his/her intelligence and academic abilities. You can set aside study time at home that is appropriate for the studying necessary at the junior high level. You can foster the creation of peer group study circles, hire a tutor, or access other study aids provided by your child’s school or by a for-profit academic assistance organization.
T he challenges of moving from elementary school to junior high school are many, varied, and quite comprehensive. It is normal for a child to feel overwhelmed during this period of intense transition. By following the tips above, you can help prepare your child for moving from elementary school to junior high school.
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