For students making a transition to a new building, the start of school is likely to have extra layers of stress and anticipation.
“There's probably 300 other kids feeling the same way as you,” said Robin Laird, assistant principal at Perrysburg Junior High School.
Students know that a leap to a new level - middle school, junior high, high school, or college - means additional responsibility, independence, and homework, as well as changes in social life.
“The challenges and fears of kids are the same, no matter what the age. It's just different degrees,” said Ms. Laird. “A lot of kids are scared to death they may never see their friends again.”
In middle and junior high, pupils will change classes, have several teachers, and use a combination lock. They may have left a neighborhood school for a larger “feeder” school bustling with a diverse mix. They may be riding a bus for the first time.
Each June, Joyce Swin sends her students off to Gateway Middle School, which enrolls children from four schools. “It's one of our goals as fifth-grade teachers to prepare them for the next level of education,” said Ms. Swin, who teaches at Wayne Trail Elementary School in Maumee.
First-year students in a building will rank at the bottom of the social totem pole.
Entering ninth grade, Taylor Ballenger of Fremont, expects a dif
ferent schedule than in middle school, and a larger workload. “I'm kind of nervous too, because I haven't been with upper classmen,” said Ms. Ballenger, 14, who attends Maumee Valley Country Day School.
Sarah Snyder's transition to high school came at a time when her appearance changed - she shed 30 pounds and traded glasses for contact lenses.
“All of a sudden I was getting all this attention from seniors, football players. It was traumatic,” said Ms. Snyder, 18, a 2003 graduate of Anthony Wayne High School. “Getting hollered at in the halls. I knew they were only interested in my looks.”
Preparing to enter Kent State University, she's concerned about having enough spending money, meeting friends who share her values, and keeping focused.
Chrissie D'Amato had gone to a small Montessori school from the time she was 2 until she entered Notre Dame Academy. “I was scared out of my mind I wasn't going to find any friends,” she said. Her next step is to Hollywood to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Art. She's apprehensive about independence, finances, and managing her health. “If I need something, I can't hop in the car and drive home,” she said.
Helen Grubb remembers feeling overwhelmed by McCord Junior High School, to which she transferred after attending the intimate Hebrew Academy. “I was so shocked. I didn't talk much,” said Ms. Grubb, a 2003 Sylvania Northview High School graduate. “By the end of the eighth grade, I had some friends.”
A child's transition can also be worrisome to parents.
“I think it's that natural instinct to protect our children as they move into new environments. We wonder if they're going to handle it,” said Susan Huss, assistant professor of counseling at Bowling Green State University. “Parents really need to help the student believe in themselves. After all, that's what we want our kids to do - figure out how to take care of themselves.”
Parents concerned about their child's needs should talk to the teacher as soon as possible. “I'd rather answer a lot of silly questions than wait until a problem gets out of hand,” she said.
It's essential for parents to keep communication flowing. “Ensure your kids they can tell you anything without you flying off the handle,” said Robert Schultz, associate professor of gifted education and curriculum studies at the University of Toledo. “You're trying to learn together about a new system and that's good to see.”
But students who are prepared for school should fare well.
“Relax. It will be fine,” said Ms. Laird of Perrysburg's schools. “The teachers and administrators are doing everything possible to make things easy. We're all in this together.”