School Transitions Made Easy

By Naomi Dillon

It’s the end of October, and Charlotte Graves is still welcoming new students. Over the course of the school year, she’ll enroll anywhere from a handful to two dozen kids a week into Smith Middle School, which draws most of its students from nearby Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

“It can get hectic for a counselor,” says Graves, who handles the seventh and eighth grades. But while Graves does the paperwork, much of what goes into acclimating new students is largely out of her hands.

Instead, Smith students make sure the newbies have someone to sit with during lunch, know how to get around school, know what to bring to class, know which teacher is the most strict, and get answers to the other unknowns that come with a new school.

At Smith, every incoming student is offered a series of opportunities to get to know the school, which for sixth-graders can begin as early as the previous spring and continue with structured activities and gatherings throughout the year.

“The first impression sets the tone for everything,” Graves says.

Unfortunately, not all schools understand the importance of creating a well-organized and well-thought-out plan to help ease the transitions kids make, especially between two of the most critical junctures in K–12 education: the move from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school. 

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