Getting back into a school routine after summer break can be a challenge for any student.
Contributing factors to stress can be transitioning into a new school, meeting new classmates, teachers and adjusting to new routines. Some Carthage R-9 staff have shared some insight on what changes students face, and what parents can do to help.
Moving up to the middle school from an elementary school is a big change for students. No one knows this better than Carthage Middle School counselors Travis Bolin and Amanda Lehman.
“My main thing is parents should encourage their kids to be excited for the change,” Lehman said. “The curriculum is going to be different in the fact that they go from learning to read to reading to learn. The reading becomes more complex, and so my advice is for families to sit down before bedtime, or sometime, and make reading fun.”
Bolin and Lehman agreed communication is the key to a successful, happy student.
“Transition begins at home and that’s what makes communication so important,” Bolin said. “Even though the student may seem OK, it’s still OK to ask. It’s good to ask them what they’re afraid of, or what excites them, that way when they come home you have something to ask about … And if they had any issues, you can ask them what can be done to make it better.”
Other tips the counselors encouraged: make lunches the night before; pick out clothes; time how long it takes to drive to the school and have breakfast; encourage making new friends and trying new interests.
Gina Robbins, in her second counseling year at the Carthage Junior High School, will have her 23rd first day of school on Aug. 15. In her career in education, she has helped students from pre-school to junior high.
“Every kid has that apprehension, some anxiety, about the first day of school,” she said. “Even some of the older kids experience some separation anxiety depending on their relationship with their family. A good way to prepare is to sit down with the student and talk about goals for the school year. Here at the junior high, this is a big transitional phase. Not only with the school, but with relationships with other kids. It’s a tough time. And we must be very mindful of their highs and lows of emotions – not just here at the beginning, but throughout the whole year. It’s important for parents to communicate with their kids, and understand they’re still growing. It’s at this stage when a new array of emotions begin to come to the forefront. With the younger kids, there’s the basic feelings: sad, angry, happy – at junior high, there’s emotions like melancholy, and they’re learning how to adjust to that. It’s so important for us to be paying attention, talking to them, letting them think about their goals, looking at homework and seeing that connection between school, home and community.”
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Carthage High School vice principal Milton Wick said he couldn’t be more pleased with the improvement in high school graduation rates over the last six years. Since the new high school was established on south River Street, upperclassmen in Link Crew have had the opportunity to bond with freshmen and keep in touch with them all throughout the year. Wick said this interaction, along with programs getting students thinking of college earlier, could be why the graduation rate has increased by 17 percent since 2007.
“I believe something that helps all students is finding a connection with the school with activities in addition to their academics,” Wick said. “It helps them build a social network, and friends remind friends when it comes to things they’re involved in. When they connect with the school through certain interests, success breeds success. Here at the high school level, they’re transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Activities are a way of networking and teamwork, which pays off for our kids in their futures.”