Every stage of life has its own theme, from the wonderment of birth to our ending days, and everything in-between. It’s about personal growth, and with growth comes change: changes in our minds, our bodies, our social status, our goals and our view of the world. It’s even evident in something as benign as returning to school each year, when we begin anew; a little older, a little taller and a little wiser. We like to call it the playlist of life.
by Karyn Brodsky | Staff Writer
Elementary to Middle School
“Ch – Ch – Changes.” – “Changes”, lyrics by David Bowie
Probably the most noticeable transformation occurs when a child enters middle school. In addition to the obvious physical changes of puberty, hormones play evil tricks on moods and kids start to notice the opposite sex. Social pressure is beginning to rear its ugly head.
According to Sonja Pegram, Principal at Renner Middle School in Plano, “The transition from elementary to middle school involves the element of the unknown along with the tall tales of ‘big schools’.” Pegram explains that fifth graders start to worry about their transition to middle school around winter break of their fifth grade year. There is anxiety about impending homework, study habits, being tardy, dealing with bullies, and keeping up with the ‘’big kids”. This often mitigates the excitement of moving on to bigger and better educational experiences. “Unfortunately, many of these exaggerations start with their fifth grade teachers,” explains Pegram. “They are simply trying to give those last few pushes of preparation, and in some cases they use these tactics to keep students from misbehaving or not getting early ‘fifth-gradeitis’, much like ‘senioritis’.”
Though the transition from elementary school to middle school at first appears daunting, students eventually realize their fears were unfounded and that they were overwhelmed by the unknown.
Parent to Parent Advice
• Work with your child on a system of organization. We used an accordion binder labeled for each class. This gave a designated place for papers and homework.
• Have your child use an agenda/calendar to write down all homework. If there is no homework, have the child mark with a large X.
• Take advantage of before school and after school tutoring. – Stephanie R. (Plano)
• Middle school brings a lot of new challenges between friends. Parents need to step back and let the kids learn how to handle these conflicts. Try not to get involved unless absolutely necessary. – Amy B. (Frisco)
• Teach them to use their time wisely. Don’t let them wait for the last minute to study for tests or complete projects. Other things always come up that need to get done. – Trish Z. (Carrollton)
Middle to High School
“What’s the matter with the crowd I’m seeing? Don’t you know that they’re out of touch?” – “Still Rock and Roll to Me”, lyrics by Billy Joel
The transition from middle school to high school signals the need to be “cool”. Peer pressure, fitting in and being accepted are top of mind as preteens morph into teens. By the end of high school, the mantra is more like “I’ve Gotta Be Me” (Golden Rainbow, lyrics by Walter Marks), as upperclassmen strive to distinguish themselves.
Stephany Sipes, Assistant Principal at Independence High School in Frisco says that moving from middle school to high school brings many challenges, the biggest of which is the social aspect, including meeting people, fitting in and adjusting to an unfamiliar routine. “It’s a new and larger school, all of the teachers are new and friend groups change,” explains Sipes. From her professional view, she feels that students should embrace their new environment and dive in head first. “I always encourage students to get plugged into high school right away; whether it’s an athletic team, fine art group or by joining a student organization,” emphasizes Sipes. “Connectedness has a major impact on student transition and success.”
Parent to Parent Advice
• Don’t micromanage or helicopter parent your child. High school is the time you want them to make mistakes while they are still under your roof. – Christy E. (McKinney)
• When your high school student begins a serious conversation or asks an in-depth question, remind yourself to pause before responding. Then instead of giving the answers, ask questions to find out what is behind the conversation/question.
• Also, sometimes you just need to TRUST. – Jeanne L. (Dallas)
• Encourage your child to get involved in an activity such as a club, band, athletics, etc. This will help them meet new people and find a core group of friends. – Ann M. (Plano)
High School to College
“I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free.” – Pippin, “Corner of the Sky”, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
As teens matriculate from “typical teenager” to Joe and Jane College, they welcome the opportunity to confirm their identity and reach their highest potential. For many, it’s the first time they’re on their own and masters of their own destiny.
Plano mom Karolyn Fritz is closely watching to see how her daughter makes the transition from high school to college. “The biggest challenge for my daughter has been being fiercely independent but a little cautious on what the future will bring,” observes Fritz. “Plano West is a large high school, which will make the transition to University of Texas easier.” Fritz notes that her daughter will be responsible for making her own way and speaking up for herself. It may cause her daughter some uneasiness at first, but Fritz knows that in the end it will be a learning and maturing experience for her little girl. “We will be her advocate but from afar. I know the future holds nothing but great things for her, and she has the world in front of her.”
Parent to Parent Advice
• Make sure they have a solid understanding of basic finances and budgets. – Rob L. (Dallas)
Parent to Student Advice
• Join an organization that will help you get out of your comfort zone . Find one where people have similar beliefs, morals and interests as you. – Rhonda W. (Plano)
• Explore the different organizations and clubs offered on campus. Pick one or two that you thoroughly enjoy. Remember less is more. – Jennifer G. (Allen)
Student to Student Advice
• Be extremely friendly to everyone you meet! Make as many friends as possible – and don’t just hang out in your dorm – go OUT and put yourself out there. – Emily M., student (University of Texas)
• Schedule your ‘relax time’. You already schedule your classes and even your study time. Schedule time for fun because you will enjoy all of college if you recharge and take care of your whole self. – Sean M. (Oklahoma University)
College to Job or Graduate School
“Gotta find my corner of the sky.” – Pippin, “Corner of the Sky”, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
The conferral of a bachelor’s degree triggers a plethora of feelings within the graduate, including pride, responsibility and the yearning to become a productive member of society. This is uncharted territory, especially those transforming from carefree student to more reserved employee.
Mackenzie R. Ferch of Dallas knows firsthand how challenging this can be. “In transitioning from college to the real world and corporate landscape, the most difficult thing for me, personally, to grasp was that manners matter, always,” admits Ferch. “That is not to say that college taught or molded me to be impolite or loud, but I did make mistakes post-graduation.” Ferch emphasizes that it is important to be self-aware and constantly conscious of what one says and how one conducts himself or herself. “Even the tone or body language I model can influence so many things at work – there are two parts to every job: getting your work done right and working well with others.” Ferch says college equipped me with the knowledge and skills to excel at the mechanics of her job, but experience and empirical knowledge is how she is growing and polishing her delivery.
Tips to college students from twenty-something college grads:
• Graduating from college and entering the work force is the perfect time to take a risk in life. You’ve got the next 43 years of your life to build a career; now is the time to find the career that will make you happy. Move somewhere new and exciting, make new friends, try new experiences and adventures while you’re young and single and you have no children and no responsibility to anyone but yourself. And if the first choice you made didn’t work out, that’s okay! You have plenty of time to change course and try something new. – Lee B.
• You’re going to make a lot of choices in your adult life that feel like they will hold the key to your future, but that’s just not the case. It’s impossible to make the perfect choice every time because that perfect choice doesn’t exist. And the best part is, there’s always time to change your decision. Don’t get caught up in the money or the stock options or the title; do something that will keep you entertained and excited. It’s rare that a college grad will be treated in the real world or work force the way they think they deserve to be treated. So make sure you’re enjoying what you do for yourself, not because someone else wants you to do that, because you have to go to work everyday. – Nicole P.
Good Life Family wants to hear from you on your transition thoughts or tips! Email us at Tricia@goodlifefamilymag.com.