Movin’ up

Schools and parents can help kids as they transition to higher grades. Here’s how, writes Sheryl Bennett-Wilson

It can be a trying time for students when they transition to higher grades. Often, it means changing schools and leaving childhood friends behind. But with good support systems in place, most students will adapt to their new school and develop new friendships.

“At Bishop Hamilton Montessori we realize that it’s a big transition,” says Ann Flindall, Junior High Director at Bishop Hamilton Montessori. “So, we make sure that they are well prepared academically for that next big step. Our Junior High program for our 12-year-old to 14-year-old students helps them to manage subjects and instills good work habits, as well as love of learning.” Flindall says that past students have told her that having been academically prepared for higher grades has really helped. “It gives them some breathing room,” says Flindall. “They can then focus on some of the other aspects of being in a larger school environment and all the social aspects that go with it.”

Flindall also encourages her junior high students to get involved in other activities at high school. “Joining the drama club or doing some volunteering can help them meet like-minded students and that helps foster their self-esteem,” says Flindall. Parents can help as well by showing their children how to get to their new school and foster that sense of independence. “At Bishop Hamilton, we help to build their confidence with excursions like our bike trip to Kingston,” she says. “We really want to inspire that ‘I can do it’ mindset. It builds self-reliance and reassures parents that their children will be just fine in their new surroundings.”

Jason Dupuis, superintendent of education at Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est says at their board, the big transition comes in Grade 6. “Our Grade 7s and 8s are combined with the Grade 9 to Grade 12s, and although there are some differences going into Grade 9, the biggest difference is for our Grade 6 students.” Dupuis says the board’s 13 high schools hold open houses from November to February, to invite and encourage future students to discover the schools and for parents to understand the changes that their child is going to encounter. “We know it’s most important for parents who have students transitioning from Grade 6 to Grade 7,” says Dupuis. “It usually means a different, bigger school and a classroom system that is new to them.” He says helping parents understand that there are now more expectations and what is expected of their child can be very beneficial.

There can be stresses for Grade 8s as well, says Dupuis. “Even though our schools house Grades 7 through to 12, in Grade 9, students are given a bit more liberty and by Grade 9, there is definitely more classroom work.” He also says that in reaching Grade 9, students come to the realization that choosing the right courses for future grades is important. “As educators, we all understand how daunting those first couple of weeks at a new school or in a new system can be,” says Dupuis. “We keep our eyes open for students who are struggling. Helping them in those transition years can really make a difference to their success.” He says that staying vigilant is important, even in older grades. As Dupuis says, “we want our students to succeed, through those transition years and beyond.”

The Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) has developed a guide for parents, so they can understand the changes happening when their child transitions to Grade 7. Much like the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE), the OCSB schools include Grade 7 through to Grade 12. Like the CECCE, by Grade 9 in the OCSB schools, students are allowed a bit more liberty. The guide is a good overview for any parent with a child going from Grade 6 to Grade 7 or a higher grade. Always check with your school for specific details.



Useful websites

Parent’s Guide to High School

Bishop Hamilton Montessori School’s Junior High program