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Moving on Up - Junior to Senior High Transition

Only three more short years and your ‘baby’ will be headed to the hallows of higher learning, whether it be university, college, an apprenticeship program or the school of hard knocks called ‘life.’

For a former junior high school student in Calgary, this requires a transition to one of 33 extremely overcrowded high schools. With many administrative changes taking place during the summer holidays, the high school your child visited during Grade 9 orientation may be different from the one they enter after Labour Day. And this time, they may not be with a gaggle of their peers; nor is there a guide to usher them around. For some, this transition is daunting. And as a parent or guardian, you may be conflicted about how much assistance you should give to make the transition an easier one.

Having been a high school teacher for over 12 years, I recommend the following: Attend back-to-school events. Whether it’s a barbeque or meet the teacher night, take advantage of the opportunity to meet the administrative, support and teaching staff in a casual, conflict-free environment. This is especially important if your student has, in the past, qualified for the frequent flyer program at the office. Ask to see their class schedule/semester load. Core and option course choices made in the previous year may have been honored, but the semester schedule could contain a heavy academic (math/science/English/social studies) load that could be intimidating. Finding a more equitable distribution of the workload can be addressed by a guidance counselor or teaching assistant (TA). Read the school’s agenda. Each child is provided with a booklet outlining the school calendar, practices and policies. This is an invaluable resource. From report card issuing dates and professional development days to dress code and behavioral expectations, this booklet has it all.

During parent teacher conferences, it can help keep meetings focused on issues, not emotions. Walk their schedule. With busy, overcrowded hallways, your child may claim they can’t make it to class on time. Take time during your visit to walk their schedule to understand the physical layout of the school. Then try to imagine it when the hallways are crammed with active teenagers. Introduce yourself. Being able to put a face to a name during telephone conversations is extremely helpful for both parties. This is especially significant with regard to support staff because the receptionist and/or office managers are the people your child will encounter first at the office. It is also helpful when work experience students answer the school’s main line. If need be, you can request to speak directly with the receptionist by asking for them by name. By Grade 11, your child may be a seasoned veteran of the rules and routines of their high school. Until then, it helps to be informed and involved.


Carmen is a contributing author for Physics, published by Pearson Education Canada, scheduled for implementation in Alberta high schools in Sept. 2007.

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