Goodbye elementary school: Kids headed to middle school offer advice to worried parents

It's one of the biggest transitions your child will make: the jump from elementary to middle school. The Grade 6 students at Laura Secord School have some advice for parents who are worried about the next step.

'My dad's afraid I'll take the wrong bus and end up in America,' says Grade 6 student

Moving from elementary school to junior high is the biggest transition a student will make, says Meghan Clements, the guidance counsellor at Andrew Mynarski VC School. (Sarah Western)

Students at the top of the food chain in Manitoba elementary schools are about to be swallowed whole by middle school.

"I'm afraid that the first day, I won't get to my class on time, or I won't be able to find where my class is," says Claire Kirkpatrick, a Grade 6 student at Laura Secord School.

Her classmates chime in with nervous giggles. It's the sound of agreement.

They're about to start middle school, which some educators say is the toughest transition most students face in their grade school careers

"This year I walk to school, but next year I'll have to take different bus routes. It sounds weird," says classmate Sarah Western.

"I'm just worried about me getting bullied or failing grades," says Nefa-Marie Hanniford.

"I don't know who's going to be in any of my classes yet. I want to be in the same class as all my friends, but that's probably not going to happen," says Iliyana Kaschor.

The nerves are warranted, says Meghan Clements, a guidance counsellor at Andrew Mynarski VC School in Winnipeg, where students are in grades seven to nine.

Of all the changes from kindergarten to Grade 12, this transition is the biggest, Clements says.

"The assignments, the homework, there's just more of it. There's more independence and expectation for them than there was in Grade 6. Lots of new teachers as opposed to having one main teacher all day," she says.

That's just the academics.

"Students are really trying to figure out who they are and where they fit and what their interests are. There are students coming from different elementary schools, so they're now in a class where they don't know a lot of the people … so there's a lot of support that needs to go there, too," Clements says.

Advice for parents

The Grade 6 class at Laura Secord School has some ideas about how to make it through the upcoming challenges, and it comes with some advice for parents.

"Just don't embarrass your kids, that's the main thing," says Ella McIntyre, as her classmates emphatically nodded their heads in agreement.

Being embarrassing includes using your child's nickname in front of their friends, hand delivering lunches and accompanying your kids to their classrooms beyond the first day of school, this group says.

Another common concern is transportation. For many of the students, it will be their first time navigating a city bus route, and they want to feel prepared.

"My mom said that over the summer, we'd take the bus route a few times so that I'd know where to go and wouldn't be stranded on the bus," says McIntyre, adding that her dad suggests listening to music as a way to avoid talking to strangers.

Other students ask for patience.

"The worst thing would be getting yelled at for failing grades or missing classes. Try not to yell or get mad at things that we probably didn't mean to do," says Hanniford.

Hanniford and her friends realize parents have their own anxieties about the transition.

"I think they're most worried about me getting lost on the way home, running into strangers or taking drugs," says Nikolai Koslowsky.

"I think my parents are worried about me getting hit by a car," says Emery Bart.

"My dad's afraid I'll take the wrong bus and end up in America instead of at my school," says Grace Holt-Frank.

Have a little faith, though, say these sixth graders, who seem aware of what's coming and a have a good idea about what they'll need to make it through.

"I would like to bring my iPhone as well as a microscope, a bunch of money, and my scout badges," says William Bolton, who perhaps has the best message to parents of all.

"Don't worry. It'll be just fine."

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