Fifth-graders prepare for life in middle school

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: June 06. 2007 5:00AM PST

REDMOND – A group of fifth- and sixth-graders crowded around a locker in the hallway at Elton Gregory Middle School in Redmond on Monday morning.

The fifth-grade students were visiting from nearby John Tuck Elementary School. As the clock winds down on this year’s final few days, the fifth-graders are in the midst of preparation for their transition to middle school next fall.

First up: mastering the art of opening a locker.

“On the first day of school they’ll give you your locker combinations and it’s three numbers,” said Shelby Pick, 12, one of the sixth-grade student leaders. “Do you guys want to try opening her locker? Try it, c’mon!”

One of the younger students volunteered to try his hand at opening Keeley O’Keefe’s locker. Keeley, 12, was another member of the group of sixth-grade students leading the WEB program, which stands for Where Everybody Belongs.

“If you think it’s hard opening a locker, it’s not,” said sixth-grader Tyler Higgins, 12, encouraging the student fumbling with the combination. Eventually, with Keeley’s help, the fifth-grader opened the locker and moved aside to let the other visiting students try.

Verlee Hitzhusen, the counselor at John Tuck Elementary, said many of her students’ concerns about moving on to middle school have to do with everyday activities like opening their lockers, showering after gym class and navigating their way around the larger building.

“We all can remember when we were making those transitions to be really nervous to go to the next level, so this will make them comfortable through the summer and reduce the worry,” Hitzhusen said. “So when they come in the fall, they’ll be able to jump right in with their schoolwork.”

Almost all of John Tuck’s fifth-graders will go to Elton Gregory, she said, and the six who will attend Obsidian Middle School already have participated in a similar transition day there.

The Redmond School District has had activities in place for many years to help with the move, but this is the second year of the WEB program, which also includes setting aside the first day of school just for the new sixth-grade class and their WEB leaders. The new students have the day to get to know their new teachers and the layout of the school building before the rush of the first day of class with the rest of the school.

“I think the kids that are seventh- and eighth-graders get as much out of it as the kids coming in,” said Jim Cooper, a counselor at the middle school. “They actually are quite involved in teaching the first day of school.”

On Monday, there were about 40 WEB leaders for 80 visiting fifth-grade students. Cooper said teachers pick strong students to participate in the program.

Jessica Murasko, a sixth-grader, said she enjoys being a WEB leader.

“You can relate to how they feel, you know,” Jessica, 11, said. “My first day I was getting my locker combination wrong, and I was doing everything wrong, but everybody else was, too, so it didn’t make me feel bad.”

Most of the fifth-grade students said they felt nervous about many aspects of the move to middle school, but were excited at the same time. Several said the half-day spent at Elton Gregory made them feel better.

“I’m nervous, just like the whole crowd and maybe I’ll get lost,” Emily Koch, 11, said. “My best friend, Stephanie, is going to be in the same class, luckily – that makes me feel a lot better, that I’ll have someone with me.”

Kenyon Flack, 11, said spending time at the middle school helped “’cause I know the building now.”

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Kenyon said. “I’m glad that I’m going to another school – might be new things I can do.”

In addition to touring the school and eating lunch, most of the fifth-graders also met their teachers for next year. Sixth-grade teacher David Woods welcomed his new students by recalling his own school days.

“I remember feeling lots of anxiety and fear because it was the big unknown,” Woods said. “It’s normal to feel anxious and it’s normal to feel fear, but you’re going to be survivors and I hope you’re up for the challenge.”

After lunch, all of the fifth-grade students and WEB leaders gathered in the gym for a question-and-answer session. Cooper and Principal Mike McIntosh told the fifth-graders that they already were members of the Elton Gregory community.

“You guys are going to be awesome sixth-graders,” Cooper said. “Actually, we’re going to call you sixth-graders right now because guys are part of the Husky family.”

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