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Oklahoma school transitions: Middle school — not as bad as you think it's going to be

The transition from elementary school to middle school requires communication and organization, Oklahoma school leaders say.
BY LILLIE-BETH BRINKMAN lbrinkman@opubco.com Modified: August 5, 2013 at 10:46 am •  Published: August 4, 2013
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The move from the protective cocoon of elementary school into the halls of middle school can be scary for children and their parents.

Students enter the school as a child, transform and come out the other end as a teenage young adult, said Michelle Sutherlin, counselor at Longfellow Middle School in Norman. Throw in puberty and a bit more independence, and you might not even recognize the child you dropped off on the first day of middle school.

“It's a big rite of passage,” said Sutherlin, who recently started a blog about the transformation at http://howtosurvivemiddleschoolasaparent.blogspot.com as her own son goes through the transition for the first time. The blog offers tips for parents.

“I think the biggest thing I can tell a parent would be to stay calm because we all feel nervous and scared and unsure,” she said.

When you drop your child off for the first time, “wait to cry until you leave the school. It's OK,” she said. But it's never as bad as you think it's going to be, she also said.

Cordell Ehrich, principal at Cimarron Middle School in Edmond, sometimes says that boys turn into stones who don't tell parents as much anymore and girls turn into a prickly cactus.

“They may flower and look really pretty, but if you hug them it's going to hurt,” Ehrich said about the girls. These changes are normal as they grow, he said.

“Middle school is a time where they try new things,” Ehrich said. “It's a real time of exploration for them, and it's really important that you help foster that.”

Both Sutherlin and Ehrich said organization is key in middle school as kids move from having one teacher in elementary school to having about six throughout the day.

“Don't hand your child a folder and tell them to stay organized. They don't know how to do that,” said Sutherlin, who recently bought her own son a Trapper Keeper to hold information about all of his classes. She plans to go through how to use it with him.

Schools offer help in this area if it's not your strength. Teach your child to keep a calendar and use email as a tool. Ask a counselor or teacher for help. And then realize that sometimes you're going to wonder why your child did his homework, forgot to turn it in and left it crumpled and smudged in the bottom of his locker.

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