Middle-School Philosophy Brings Twist to Junior-High Orientation

Article excerpt

Byline: Deborah Johnson Daily Herald Staff Writer

Some were nervous about changing classes. Others worried about remembering locker combinations.

But before the end of sixth-grade orientation, youngsters were laughing as they participated in a scavenger hunt aimed at making them more comfortable with Naperville's Washington Junior High.

"I want them to have the chance to meet other kids," said student services coordinator Jeff Kling. "I want them to be comfortable with the building. It is time to allay some of their fears and give them some ownership of the place."

Welcome to sixth-grade orientation, '90s style. All over DuPage County, teachers, counselors and principals are helping anxious 11-year-olds take that big step - from the familiarity of grade school to the wide world of junior high.

"In the old days, a child's folder would be sent up, and that would be it," said Tim Sleep, assistant principal at Hill Middle School in Naperville.

But today, with the advent of the middle school philosophy - which stresses emotional and social development along with the 3 R's - educators are more concerned about helping students make successful transitions.

It begins when the kids still are in fifth grade. Counselors pay spring visits to the elementary schools to tell incoming sixth-graders what they can expect the following year.

In August, as the first day of school approaches, there are open houses so children can get their schedules, practice opening lockers, and tour their new digs.

Orientations also give sixth-graders the chance to ask the questions that concern them most:

- ill the eighth-graders pick on me?

- ill I have time to change out of my gym uniform before my next class?

- o I have to take a shower after gym?

- ow will I remember my locker combination?

- ow will I find my way around school?

- hat if none of my friends are in my classes?

"The biggest (fear) is they won't know anyone," said Washington teacher Jane Loan. …