Junior highs try to smooth move to new system

A video and a DVD are meant to ease concerns of middle-schoolers.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:48 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

As 1,238 middle school students in the Columbia School District finish their last day of school today, teachers and counselors are helping prepare them for the transition to junior high.

Craig Martin, principal of Smithton Middle School, said students’ concerns are not unique to the junior high transition.

“(They) have the same worries kids have when they are starting a new school at any level,” he said.

Martin said one way schools try to quell the anxiety is to make the policies between middle and junior high schools as similar as possible so it feels like a four-year experience instead of two sets of two years.

A way West Junior High School tries to help seventh-grade Smithton students is through the video “A Day in the Life of a West Junior Viking.” The video was created by John Jacobs, a science teacher and student council sponsor at West Junior High, along with some of the student council members. It is shown to seventh-graders before the end of the school year.

The 11-minute video follows two eighth-grade girls during a day at West Junior High. It shows what it’s like to go from class to class, demonstrates how the lunch periods differ from those in middle school and interviews the girls on basic changes between the schools.

Jefferson Junior High School provides incoming students from Gentry Middle School with a DVD about daily life to watch at home. A video is also shown in February at Gentry that explains electives, a concept middle school students seem to have the most trouble with, said Susie Adams, a social studies teacher and guidance counselor at Jefferson.

“We also have a schedule pick-up day in August where the students come to the school,” Adams said. “We encourage them to walk through their schedules and try their lockers, so they make sure they can do it.”

In addition to specific orientation days and videos, the student council at Jefferson Junior High meets over the summer. Members for the eighth-grade year are selected by teachers at Gentry; ninth-grade officers come to the middle schools to give speeches and are then elected by the middle-schoolers on the last day of school. Basketball camps and cheerleader tryouts will also take place throughout the summer.

Even though students from the junior high schools visited the middle schools in early May to talk to the seventh-graders and answer any queries, students will still have questions.

“They always worry about teachers, whether they will be meaner or nicer, and if they will have more or less homework,” Martin said.

Adams is confident that students will acclimate quickly. “After a few weeks, they get into a routine,” she said, “and see it’s just school, just like before.”

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