Transitioning to middle school isn’t easy for many students. Different teachers for different subjects in different classrooms bound to cause chaos as students get lost, then found, in crowded and noisy hallways. These tween and early teen years are also awkward times socially for a lot of kids as they transform from girls and boys into young women and men, on their own individual timelines. (Girls generally go first in this process. Boys eventually notice the advanced status of girls, which should serve as an important life lesson for them!)

Academically, middle school brings big changes in learning methods and expectations that students need to understand and embrace. Elementary school was all about learning to read. By the 4th and 5th grades, educational instruction turns on a dime as students acquire knowledge by reading to learn. From this point, through high school and beyond, learning becomes a lifelong endeavor. Here, students find that not everything on the test was in their teacher’s lesson plan or in the worksheets and study guides. More learning, especially with homework, is now expected to be done independently. Textbooks and other resources become more important. (Parents and students shouldn’t overlook the usefulness of online resources, especially YouTube, in helping acquire information in various sensory ways.) Reading, not only to gain knowledge but to foster imagination and to learn to think critically, is vital in order to solve problems in school, and in life.

Every day there is more information about everything that wasn’t known before and, somehow, we need to learn it. Only one thing stays constant: there are still only 24 hours in a day, which makes independent learning outside of the classroom essential.

Still, it’s not surprising that the top concerns students have about making the transition from elementary school to middle school are social rather than academic. KidSource Online surveyed a group of Georgia students entering middle school and found these top eight worries:

(1) getting to class on time

(2) finding lockers

(3) keeping up with “materials”

(4) finding lunchrooms and bathrooms

(5) getting on the right bus to go home

(6) getting through the crowded halls

(7) remembering which class to go to next

(8) personal safety (aggressive and violent behaviors of other students)


It also shouldn’t be surprising that teachers have their own concerns regarding how students manage the transition to middle school, and they have a lot more of them:

(1) changing classes

(2) reduced parent involvement

(3) more teachers

(4) no recess, no free time

(5) new grading standards and procedures

(6) more peer pressure

(7) developmental differences between boys and girls

(8) cliquishness

(9) fear of new, larger, more impersonal school

(10) accepting more responsibility for their own actions

(11) dealing with older children

(12) merging with students from five elementary schools

(13) unrealistic parental expectations

(14) lack of experience in dealing with extracurricular activities

(15) unfamiliarity with student lockers

(16) following the school schedule

(17) longer-range assignments

(18) coping with adolescent physical development

(19) social immaturity

(20) a lack of basic skills