High School Here We Come
two teenagers in scienceTop of the pile one week, new kid on the block the next.

This is the scenario facing thousands of year six children as they farewell  primary school days and enter the world of secondary school.

Many students confidently face the challenge of embracing a new school system, while others feel varying degrees of anxiety and intimidation. Human beings as a whole are largely creatures of habit, so it comes as no surprise that many students are daunted by the idea of leaving the secure, familiar primary school environment for the big unknown. Being aware of the new challenges can go a long way to dealing with them confidently.

The Comfort Zone

Having one teacher for all subjects, five days a week, 40 weeks per year, someone who knows them inside out and back to front will be quickly replaced by a succession of different teachers across a variety of subject areas.
This lack of connectedness to one teacher is part of the emotional ‘growing up’ process and is a natural step for teenagers as they find their own way in life. For some students however, it can leave them feeling a little like flotsam and jetsam. They may need extra support and encouragement on both home and school fronts during the settling in period.

Personalities

Different teachers bring different personalities to the classroom, which can have an impact on a student’s behaviour.  On one end of the spectrum they may have a teacher running a classroom with military precision and at the other end one adopting a laissez faire approach. Students will find themselves undergoing constant behaviour modification to meet the variety of expectations. Reminding children that this is good grounding for ‘real life’ employment where they’ll meet a variety of work place personalities can help them relax and adjust.

Teaching Styles

Learning styles and teaching styles are seldom a perfect match but it is worth acknowledging that many secondary school subject areas rely on visual learning strategies to a greater degree, with a heavier emphasis on reading, listening and note taking.
The kinesthetic or ‘hands on’ learner can feel all at sea in this environment and given time may need to choose electives that allow more active participation.

Independence

Growing accustomed to reading and following timetables, being responsible for bringing the appropriate text books and materials to every class rather than relying on the teacher to supply them, require adjustments to independence. Navigating one’s way around much larger physical surroundings and moving rooms several times a day will also be new to students in the initial weeks.

On a personal level, many students who have spent their entire primary school years with the same peers, will find themselves making new friends as their mates enroll in different schools. Learning to mix in different circles is important for personal development, but it can also alter the power and status that individuals have enjoyed in previous years.

Boys in particular, can find it unnerving to adjust to the new pecking order that comes from entering an unknown field of personalities. It may bring out feelings of self doubt initially, but it can also be a great equalizer.

Responsibility

Possibly the biggest challenge facing students is the mental leap in taking responsibility for their own learning. It’s never too late for parents who feel their child isn’t adequately prepared, to start giving them responsibilities on the home front. Time management is an important issue in every-one’s life and there is no better time to introduce children to this concept than in the first year of secondary school.

Homework provides a logical platform for developing independence as it requires students to re-organize their day, create a workable timetable and commit to a schedule. Designing a timetable together early in the term will put them in a positive position.

All things considered, the transition from primary school to secondary school is a milestone in the lives of students. It heralds a new period of personal and intellectual growth, opens doors and provides opportunities for students to pursue their passions by choosing electives in which they have a keen interest.

As primary students walk out the door for the last time it will no doubt be with a mixture of enthusiasm for the future and nostalgia for what is being left behind.

And the journey continues...
 
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