Last Friday, my daughter made the jump from a K-6 elementary school into a 7-8 middle school.
Her father and I did all we could to prepare her: clothes, school supplies, some summer “school work”, a number of talks about boys, peer pressure, “mean girls” and more. We made it a point to watch some of the classic coming of age films with her and discuss the fact and fiction components of it all, but one thing we couldn’t really prepare her for was the expectations that would be put upon her by her new teachers.
My husband and I lamented the hand-holding and low expectations we saw in elementary school and have long worried about our daughter’s ability to adjust to the higher expectations she’d face in Grade 7. I’m not simply talking about more homework and a faster pace, I am referring to the changing of classes, the start of note taking, and the like.
This week we have found that our fears were well founded. After only 2 days of school, my daughter is already feeling overwhelmed and unprepared. She has yet to come up with a notebook/folder system that will accommodate her schedule. Half of the school supplies we bought are the “wrong ones” (although they are very mainstream items). And, I can’t help but wonder if this could have been avoided by two things.
1) An orientation day for new students. Our district does not bring the Grade 7 students into the middle school until the first day of school. Aside from a schedule and bus information, we received no “heads up” about what would be needed or expected during the first week of school. My understanding is that many other towns hold orientations. And our local high school does too. But, the middle school is treated as just another grade.
This would be fine if it weren’t for the disappointingly low expectations of the Grade 5 and Grade 6 teachers in our district. After watching my daughter breeze through Grades 1 – 6, I can’t help but lament the time wasted and opportunities missed to better prepare her for middle school and to have taught her more.
2) Being a student in Grades 5 and 6 should be treated less like a significant accomplishment deserving of reward and special treatment, and more like a transition period with high standards and a curriculum more like what students will see in Grades 7 – 12.
My daughter will adjust as she always does. But it pains me to see her struggle and frustrates me to know it’s an unnecessary headache for her. She should have been better prepared by her school, but the sad thing is that her elementary school and middle school won’t even compare notes so her fate is destined to be suffered by many future classes of students, just as it has been for many in the past.