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Moving on up

The end of this school year means big changes ahead for people changing schools. Getting to know your new school will make it easier.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 4, 2001

It is said three things in life are certain: death, taxes and change. Since I'm only finishing up fourth grade, I have to admit I don't think much about death and taxes. But change is something I do think about, and deal with and dread. I am not one of those people who like change. Just having my bedroom furniture rearranged can throw me out of whack for days.

When I started fourth grade, it was my first year at a new school and I was incredibly nervous. I worried that I would not be able to adjust to the unfamiliar feeling of a new and bigger school. I also dreaded leaving my old friends behind and making new ones.

Turns out -- thank goodness -- the change wasn't so bad. The school wasn't as big as I expected, and I already knew a lot of people from playing baseball and soccer.

Changes are inevitable for students, and as the school year winds down, lots of students are thinking about some pretty big changes they'll be facing when school begins again in August. Some kids will be making transitions from elementary to middle school, from middle school to high school and from high school to college, and there are different ways of dealing with the changes.

"I'm nervous and kind of excited," says 11-year-old Stephanie Burke of Brooksville. She will be making the move from Pine Grove Elementary School to West Hernando Middle School. "I'm nervous because there's going to be a lot of older people there. I'm excited because I'm going to a new school, and I don't have to stay in elementary school with the little kids."

Carmen Franz, a 14-year-old from Palm Harbor who is going from middle school to high school, says she is frightened when she thinks about all the people at high school and having to make new friends. "Getting around, I think I'll get lost with all the people, because I have no sense of direction."

To help Carmen decide between staying in Catholic school or changing over to public school, she followed another girl around for a day at Clearwater Central Catholic High, which calmed her fears a little bit. "It's not as chaotic as you think it is." She says she'll most likely go to Clearwater Central Catholic.

Stephanie Burke attended an information session to find out about her new school, too, which she said was helpful. "I think it made me feel better because they showed us around, and now I won't get lost on campus and I know stuff about the school and the consequences and how I should act."

Moving into a higher level of school can also mean a totally different workload, and some kids feel a little scared about that. "I think there'll be a lot harder work because it is a lot more advanced school," says Stephanie. "All the sixth-graders that come back are like "what's Z plus A and it equals some number' and I'm like, I have no clue." While Carmen agrees the workload in high school will be challenging, she doesn't seem quite as worried. "I think there'll be more, but I'll be able to budget my time."

If you're one of the kids who faces the challenge of heading off to a new school in the fall, don't scare yourself silly this summer thinking about how awful it might be. Chances are, it won't be as bad as you think, especially if you are confident about yourself.

Take some advice from two people who are in the same boat you are. "Everyone's in the same position as you when you go into high school, so you just talk to people and find people with the same interests," Carmen advises. Stephanie offers this: "Fifth-graders, don't be scared of middle school," she says. "I'm not scared at all."

Alex Zimmet, 9, will be in the fifth grade at Cypress Woods Elementary School in Palm Harbor.

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