Is it good to be in the middle? Sometimes it's not, like when you're in the middle seat on a long car ride. But sometimes it is, like when you're in the middle of a great movie. What will happen next?

Middle school is a little bit like that. It's called middle school because it's in the middle of your school years. Elementary school is behind you. High school and possibly college still await you.

Middle school often includes sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, but you might go to middle school earlier or later, depending on how it's done in your area.

For a kid, going to middle school often is a big change:

  • First, it usually means moving to a new building, which takes some time to adjust to.
  • Second, it may mean taking a different bus, with different students.
  • Third, the friends you made in elementary school may end up going to different middle schools.

All of that can make you feel a bit scared on the first day of school.

Other things that probably will be different are the teachers and the work. Have you heard rumors that middle school teachers are really mean and the homework is really, really hard? Oh, dear. We've heard those, too, but they're not usually true. Yes, you'll like some teachers better than others, but middle schools are not special breeding grounds for mean teachers!

Learning New Stuff

Your homework — and the work you do in class — likely will get more challenging, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. You're growing up and you get to build on all that learning you already did in elementary school. You'll also probably be learning some new and different stuff in middle school — like foreign languages, more advanced courses in computer technology, music and art, health, and life skills, such as cooking.

On top of that, middle school will probably offer a variety of new teams, clubs, and activities you can join. Maybe you love lacrosse, ceramics, or jazz music. You might find opportunities to do all three at middle school.

Still worried about middle school? Let's talk about how to make the transition and not get too freaked out!

Visit more than once. Most middle schools have orientation day for students who will be attending in the fall. Orientation is a day when you tour the school and get a little information about what it will be like to go there. Another great way to get oriented is to attend a concert or sporting event at your new school. And talk to friends who already go there. Ask them about any problems they had and ask if they could help you if you need it when you get there. It's cool to have an older kid as a friend at your new school!

It also might help if your mom or dad drove you to the school in the summertime. You might see sports teams practicing outside and just get a sense of the place. It's also good to get an idea of where it is in your area. Is it over near the mall or on the other side of town?

Prepare for Day 1. Read any materials you get at orientation or that arrive by mail in the summer. Are there books you need to read or supplies you have to buy? You'll also want to figure out what time school starts and what time the bus will pick you up, if you take one. Then you can decide what time you'll need to wake up. You also might want to find out when your lunch is. If it's later than usual, you might want to pack a snack. Also in advance, think about what you'll wear. Choose something that you like and feel comfortable in. If you'll be wearing a uniform, try it on to see that all the pieces fit and that they feel good.

Get to bed on time the night before! Try to get a good night's sleep — even if you're so excited you don't think you can sleep. Before bed, lay out all your stuff so you don't forget anything. Set your alarm, but tell your mom or dad when you need to get up in case you sleep right through it!

On the big day, eat breakfast and be brave. Breakfast might seem skippable if you're in a major hurry, but don't cut it out. You'll feel terrible by mid-morning, just when you need your energy and brain power to navigate your new school.

On your way out the door, take everything you need and try to remember that this is a big adventure. You might get lost in the halls. Oh, well, it's your first day! Check in with friends you know and try to be brave and say "hi" to other new kids. Don't know the kid with the locker next to yours? Say "hello." You'll be seeing a lot of each other this year!

In class, listen to what the teacher says and take notes because it's hard to remember everything. Try to write down the important stuff — like your locker combination and your homeroom number. Then you can look it over when you get home and be prepared for Day 2.

On Day 2, repeat. On the second day, do everything you did on Day 1. Hopefully, things are starting to go a little more smoothly. Keep referring to your notes. It might help to look over your class schedule at home so you start to memorize that math follows English and science follows gym, but only on Tuesdays!

After 1 week, pat yourself on the back. When you've been at your school for a whole week, it's time to give yourself a round of applause. You've probably absorbed a ton of new information — all in a short time. You probably know your locker combination, where your assigned seat is in all your classes, where the bathrooms are, and how to get to the cafeteria. Do you still get lost on the way to gym? If so, find a buddy who goes to gym at the same time and walk together.

Solving Problems Beyond Week 1

If you find you're having trouble with schoolwork or friends, don't panic but do get help. Just like in elementary school, ask the teacher for extra help after class if you don't understand something you're learning. You also might have study halls in middle school — these free periods are great for talking to a teacher or getting a jump on your homework.

Also talk to your mom or dad if you're having trouble with your classes. It could be that you're just a little rusty after that long summer. But if your problems don't go away, you'll want to talk to the teacher and maybe a school counselor.

When it comes to friends, the switch to a new school can leave you feeling a little dizzy. What if your best friend isn't in any of your classes and you never see him or her? What if none of your friends even goes to your school? Middle school is a good time to make new connections and new friends.

Sometimes, it's easy to make a new friend. You might meet the first day and then hang out all year long. But it also can go more slowly, especially if it seems like a lot of kids are already hanging out together in groups that don't include you. Let someone know how it's going for you. Talk to your mom, dad, or a school counselor if you're feeling lonely and it's not getting any better.

You might wonder what you can do to feel less lonely and make friends. Here's something: Try joining a club, sport, or activity. It's a great way to get to know kids you don't know yet. Being in these groups also can help you feel more at home at your school. By next year, you'll be that cool older kid who's helping out the new kid. If he's lost on the way to the gym, please show him the way!

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