Moving from elementary school to middle school has its challenges. It can be scary and super exciting at the same time! The School Counselor’s role is vital in providing a positive middle school transition for students and parents.
Partner with admin, fellow counseling staff, elementary level staff, and students to develop a comprehensive transition plan with many points of contact. Some schools use a peer mentoring program to facilitate the transition. Other schools focus primarily on the sixth-grade transition. Your transition focus should be based on the needs of your school.
Communicate a schedule of transition activities through social media, school calendar, and district website to inform parents. Publicize transition events in community newspapers and through parent/teacher groups. Host parent meetings, open houses, and transition workshops. A supportive middle school transition is possible with collaboration and communication and will address common concerns of procedures, academics, and social interactions.
Middle School Transition: Procedures
How do I find my classes? When is lunch? How do I manage my locker?
These are the types of worries middle schoolers have before they ever step into the building. How are these concerns addressed? From When can I go to the restroom? to What do I need for P. E. class?, students need to know specifics.
Because every school operates differently, a new student handout with FAQs about specific middle school concerns would be beneficial in addressing these areas.
Plan an orientation/transition day (or half day) that allows students to be in the school. Students are able to tour the school, visit the gym and cafeteria, practice using a combination lock, and learn how to navigate drop off and pick up.
Middle School Transition: Academics
Academic concerns trigger stress for many students.
How much homework will I have?
Multiple teachers, subjects, and schedules are a lot to navigate.
How am I going to manage six classes?
Have a new student open house for prospective students. Present curriculum and course information to parents. Have academic demonstrations for each content area for parents and students to observe during the open house. Provide parents with information about tutoring, organizational skills, and study skills training available through the school and the counseling program. Make sure parents and students know who to contact about any academic concerns.
Middle School Transition: Social Interactions
Students moving into middle school are concerned about social issues. Bullying is a huge concern. Friendships change. Students are at various levels of development, which affects their ability to solve problems and handle conflict. Social concerns cause students stress and anxiety, affecting academic development too.
Inform students and parents of your referral process for counseling services. Give specific information about your bullying prevention and intervention program. Promote extracurricular activity opportunities to help students find a place to belong. Offer small groups or workshops to address conflict, friendships, and decision making. Introduce your counseling services to parents through a Coffee With the Counselor event.
The middle school transition can be a positive experience that builds community among the new students. Promote a collaborative effort that builds positive relationships with parents, teachers, and students. Some free resources to help schools and parents are available from Great Schools, NEA, United Way, and Parent Toolkit.
I’m a school counselor, former special education teacher, and adult educator. I am an advocate for students and implement a comprehensive program based on the ASCA National Model and the TN counseling model. My hope is that all students reach their full potential without limitations.