By Dominic Masters, Middle School Vice Principal & Physical Education Teacher
Change can be difficult for people of all ages, but we tend to experience more change as we develop from a child into an adolescent. The transition from elementary to secondary school is just one of a number of changes that we experience at this time and this article will help to address some of the obstacles a student may face when they reach this phase of life.
Some of the most obvious changes as a student moves from Grade 6 to Grade 7 are new teachers, longer periods, different schedules and classes, and increased workload. Students will move from classroom to classroom in middle school but they will still have a TAP (Teacher Advisor Program) advisor who will be their “go to” person when they have an issue. These teachers will also deliver a weekly lesson on topics such as Digital Citizenship, Bullying, Well-being, Drugs and Alcohol, and other physical, social and emotional issues. The TAP schedule runs on a Wednesday which means Wednesdays look slightly different to the rest of the week (see the schedule below)
As you can see from the schedule, classes are now 80 minutes in duration – that’s double what students were used to in primary. Classes consist of English Language Arts, Social Studies, Mathematics, Science, Mandarin/ELL, Physical Education, Music (semestered), Art (semestered), Career Technology Foundations (semestered), and Drama (semestered).
Now that I’ve mentioned some of the changes that occur, let’s have a look at some strategies that could be implemented to help a child be successful in Middle School. The 7 habits of highly effective teens (Covey, 2011), now updated for the digital age, is a good place to start. Covey states that in order to be highly effective, teens must:
- Be proactive
- Begin with the end in mind
- Put first things first
- Think win-win
- Seek first to understand then to be understood
- Sharpen the saw
Instead of discussing each of these, I’d like to focus in on point number 1, being proactive. We are each in control of our own success. As we move through life we gain more and more responsibility. An example of this is the transition from Grade 6 to Grade 7. In Grade 7, students become part of the 1 to 1 laptop program, some will start to make their own way to school, and many will become part of one, if not more, of our athletics teams. This requires upgrades in time management and organisation – of course with the support of teachers and parents. Being proactive in recording homework, making effective use of class time and time at home, and seeking clarification and using independent research if struggling to understand a concept are all strategies that can aid a smoother transition from elementary to middle School. The sooner we move from being proactive as opposed to reactive (e.g. only making positive change when we are told to do so), the sooner we start to unlock our true potential. Our teachers at TIS guide students to becoming independent, responsible students to equip them with the tools they need for today and mindset they need for the future.
To learn more about the 7 habits of highly effective teens, please click here for the free ebook. In addition, we will be hosting a parent evening at the Secondary School library at TIS on June 6th at 6.30pm regarding the transition from elementary to middle school and we look forward to seeing Grade 6 parents and students in attendance.
Dom has previously taught ESL in China and was a classroom teacher in Hong Kong. He completed his Sport and Exercise Science degree and PGCE in Secondary Physical Education at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. After two years in China and Hong Kong, Dom moved to Macau to pursue his dream of teaching PE. He has now been in Macau for 7 years and this is his third year at TIS. He’s currently studying for his Masters in Educational Leadership and Management through the University of Portsmouth. He believes that building healthy relationships and promoting appropriate character and values are key to achieving potential for all members of the school community.