Thursday, March 16, 2006


As a new trimester dawns, I begin preparing my eighth graders for high school. This is a time fraught with anxiety and fear for parents and students, with high school looming large and unfamiliar. A new campus. New teachers. Higher expectations. The Exit Exam. Driving. Dating! DANCES!!

This same drama played out when they came to us as little fifth grade seedlings. The shift from elementary to middle school is terrifying and during the transition meeting, parents are understandably nervous. Changing classes, locker rooms and eighth grade bullies are the boogiemen of these parent's nightmares. These years are not ones that most of us remember fondly. Mine were torturous, so I sympathize. But you can't stay in elementary school forever, and by the end of sixth grade, most students are comfortable and established. They get cocky in the eighth grade, until March dawns and we teachers start reading announcements about high school orientation.

We are still months away from the thrill of graduation, but in order to move our little striplings on we must meet with the high school departments and set up schedules for out students. The students are generally excited because our high school has a coffee delivery program that it's Sp Ed department runs. They get a glimpse of ROP options and art classes. Parents are white-knuckled because this meeting talks about diplomas vs. certificates of completion, exit exams and more independence for their child. The meetings are held at the high school, so on their way in, they view a parade of young adults who seem ages older than their student. How on earth is my child going to cope with this, they wonder. How can I drop them off in this jungle every day, their bewildered faces ask.

(I know this because my fifth grader is preparing to enter the world of middle school and my fears are the same. I will freely admit to being a basketcase when eighth grade ends. I know that in three short years, I will send her to high school and her younger sister to kindergarten. Buy stock in Kleenex now. )

Here, in these meetings, I'm not the big, bad teacher who assignes too much homework and grades their child unfairly. I am not the ogre who demands a tardy slip when they are only ten minutes late. I am the security blanket. I am the familiar. I am the face of three years, who has nurtured their child through rough years. I am the one who will cry with them at graduation and send these little striplings onto bigger and better things. Little do they know, these meetings are as hard for me as they are for the parents.


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