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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Changing grades can be hard

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A facilitator explains teaching concepts to a group of teaches at the Sikeston Kindergarten Center.
SIKESTON -- Getting to class on time or writing every assignment in cursive may not seem like a big deal to adults, but for many students, making the transition to a new grade can be a terrifying experience.

"A lot of times even changing teachers or grade levels can be dramatic for students," noted Scott County Central Elementary Counselor Mary Barron. "It's tougher work and behavior expectations are higher."

While parents often spend time getting their children ready for the first day, they mustn't forget to check with their kids after the school bell rings for the new year.

Kindergarten is always a hard time for students and parents, but students going from elementary school to junior high and from junior high to high school can also experience apprehension.

"In junior high and high school, students get all of the physical changes as well as deal with peer pressure and academic changes," Barron explained. "They've got more freedom, but not always the maturity to go along with having the responsibility to handle the new freedoms."

Even students jumping from second to third grade have a difficult time adjusting, Barron pointed out.

"Part of it, for example, may be they're expected to do all of their work in cursive. It might not seem like a big deal to us but for them it's a huge deal," Barron said.

Establishing a good school routine is key to having a successful school year, Barron said.

"Maintaining a calm and positive attitude is really important and parents not overemphasizing going back to school is also important," said Barron.

Debbie Quertermous, middle school counselor for Charleston R-1, said she, too, thinks it's a good idea to stay in a routine during the school year.

"You should try as much as possible to stay in a routine and set a specific time for homework," Quertermous recommended. "It doesn't always have to be done right after school. Sometimes kids need a break. Maybe they work better after supper. It just depends on the individual student."

Sudden illnesses, a change in personality, sleep disturbance, not wanting to eat, not wanting to get up in the morning or crying because they don't want to go to school are all signs of trouble in elementary children.

For junior high and high school students, changes in sleep patterns or behavior or mood changes are often signs of problems, Quertermous said.

"Sometimes kids act out, and that can be a sign of depression in children. Parents may think 'he's misbehaving,' but it can be something else that's bothering them," Quertermous warned.

Luckily, students generally settle into the new school year by Labor Day, Barron said.

Meanwhile, parents who suspect their child is upset about something or simply just to keep the lines of communication open, the counselors recommend asking open-ended questions. For example, parents could ask: What was the best thing that happened at school today? Did you meet any new kids at school? How does it feel to be in a new grade? What do you like about being in your new classroom?

In order to get more than a "fine" reply from a child, Quertermous recommended using specific phrases like "Tell me about your PE class" or "Tell me which teacher you have for your English class."

"Sometimes kids are not even aware of their specific problems. They just know they're nervous or tense, and if they talk about specifics with parents, it can help them be at more ease," Quertermous explained.

Talking to older siblings can also help, "Sometimes that can backfire," Quertermous laughed. "But normally talking to someone who's experienced the same thing can be a good thing."

Many schools have open houses before or after school starts so parents and students can visit with teachers and see the classrooms.

"Teachers should keep in contact with the parents, too," Barron said. "The policy I have is parents are always welcome. It's a team effort, and you should always try to keep it positive."