South Charlotte

Making the transition to middle, high school

Its summertime, and most preteens and teens are relaxing with friends, hanging outside or at the pool, attending summer camps or going on vacation.

But school is a few weeks away, and making the transition from elementary school to middle school or from middle school to high school can be stressful.

"Moving from elementary to middle school or from middle to high school produces very similar anxieties," said Katy Coffelt, the academic facilitator at Community House Middle School. "It's about moving to a much bigger setting with much bigger expectations.

"It's really fear of the unknown. What will it be like and am I ready?" said Coffelt, a former middle and high school teacher. "Entering middle school means going from having one or two teachers all day long to having five or six teachers. Each middle school teacher will have different expectations and curriculum.

"Listen to your child's fears and anxieties - and then focus on the positive," Coffelt said. "Check out school events, visit your new school and meet your teachers."

Students in middle school will be assigned to teams and be able to take electives like foreign languages, band, orchestra or chorus and computer technology. High school students have access to clubs, activities and a variety of athletic teams.

She said parents should talk about paying close attention in class and keeping up with homework and assignments because there's more emphasis on academics and grades.

Expect homework of about two to three hours a night for middle school students and four to five hours a night in core subjects for high school students.

"Parents should establish a homework routine. Set a regular time and place for studying and check that it is complete," Coffelt said. "Give your child time to decompress right after school.

"Today's youth are called 'digital natives' because they were born and raised with everything going on around them," Coffelt said. "They may be able to multitask and learn with a television or music in the background. They may be able to keep their cell phone nearby."

Parents could let students study with different stimuli at hand and evaluate grades after the marking period, she said.

"Students will be expected to perform well on tests," Coffelt said. "If students are taught meaningful information, tied to state standards, and if they give a full effort every day, they will learn what they need for the tests.

"As long as your child is truly investing himself in class each day, it is OK to get a B or C. A C in an honors class is viewed differently than a C in a standard course. The key is whether or not the student is appropriately challenging himself."

"Choose your classes based on your long-term vision of where you're going and how you're going to get there," said Coffelt.