For many Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) students, moving from Grade 6 to Grade 7 can be a big change. They’ll go from being the oldest students in their school, to the youngest. And along with other changes – such as having a locker and several teachers for different classes through the day – the experience is both exciting and, at times, overwhelming. The OCSB has numerous ways to help both students and their parents prepare for that big leap from elementary to intermediate school.
Carrie-Lynn Bowie is the principal at St. Patrick’s High School, a Grade 9-12 school which will become a Grade 7-12 school in September 2018. “We really understand that the first year of Grade 7 can feel challenging for some,” says Bowie. “We encourage families in our school communities to take advantage of all the available resources and activities to make that adjustment.”
Parents are invited to attend information sessions each spring which offer a tour of the school, extensive information about programming, and the opportunity to meet the teachers. Grade 6 students moving to Grade 7 are provided opportunities to visit their new school, participate in Catholic Education Week activities, and attend welcoming events at the end of summer.
Once they enter Grade 7, peer mentoring by older high school students is provided. These peer mentors are often older siblings, neighbours, or friends.
“This is a big change for children in their pre-teen years,” says Bowie. “The staff and students at every OCSB school really take pride in reinforcing that we’re in this together, as part of a family, and we’re here to help.”
Transitioning from Grade 6 to 7 can be an adjustment period for students with special needs, as well. “We realize that some students might require more support,” says Michele Pierce, Educational Consultant, Guidance and Pathways Intermediate/Secondary with the OCSB. “We offer the opportunity to talk to the student and parents earlier in the year or provide extra visits to their new school.” Transition meetings are also available for students with special education needs. It’s an opportunity for parents to ask questions and relieve some of their anxiety about program or schedule changes which may affect their child.
“Our Student Services Department is very welcoming,” says Pierce. The students are introduced to what supports are available to them at the beginning of the year. Every student has a guidance counsellor assigned and available to them.” Bowie suggests that open communication with your soon-to-be Grade 7 student is key. “Take that tour of the new school and then talk with your child about it,” says Bowie. “Once you know what to expect, you can reassure them and help to build the confidence to try new activities like sports or extracurricular activities. And don’t be shy to talk about your own positive experiences – the fun you had in your early years and the new friends you made.”
There are other recommendations to help prepare your child for the intermediate grades. Get them to practice opening their combination lock for a school locker. Encourage them to work on keeping school materials, gym clothes, and school bags organized. Remind them that attendance is important. And, once they begin Grade 7, encourage them to use the OCSB’s academic, social, emotional, and spiritual supports in place for all students. And, it’s never too early to start following your new school on Twitter and Facebook. “Staying involved in your child’s education is immensely important,” says Bowie. “Keeping up with the flow of information coming out of your school will support your child’s success. You can get to know other parents by attending school council meetings, sporting events, and parent information nights. You’ll also realize and appreciate how welcoming the school community is.”
Pierce says many students are quietly excited about their new sense of responsibility. “I think once they meet their new classmates, they realize pretty quickly that they’re all in this change together and they start to connect and get to know each other.”
In OCSB schools, Grades 7 and 8 classes are in one area of the high school and Grades 9-12 are in another. They follow separate schedules, including the lunch hour. They are part of the larger high school environment, but separate. But the younger school students at the OCSB still have access to the same state-of-the-art facilities and programs that their older peers do. Fully equipped science labs, music rooms, drama stages, gymnasia, visual arts supplies, and innovative multi-purpose rooms are all part of the experience which makes Grade 7 so exciting. And these classes are led by teachers with specialized qualifications for students to get the most out of their learning.
The OCSB communities have invested considerable resources towards making the entry into Grade 7 as smooth and successful as possible for their students. They want each student to have the same opportunities to be creative, collaborative, and confident citizens as they journey through their high school years. Join your child on the journey into Grade 7. Share the joy and excitement with them as the OCSB welcomes your child with