From South to Saxe: A fourth grader makes the jump to middle school
Published 4:56 pm, Thursday, May 18, 2017
Editor’s note: This is the first of an ongoing series about the transition to middle school in New Canaan.
But soon the 10-year-old will adopt a new identity, leaving South School behind to start attending classes across the street as a fifth- grader at Saxe Middle School next fall.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I’m mostly excited and I’m nervous about not having friends in my class.”
Starting this month, Bennhoff will begin the process of transitioning over to the middle school with an assembly, a day at the middle school and finally orientation over the summer. These activities will help prepare her for the increased responsibility that comes with going to middle school, such as leaving lunch on her own to go to recess and heading home at the end of the day without the help of a dismissal manager.
“I’m excited to walk to different classes without a teacher,” she said.
Bennhoff learned more details about her future schooling a a recent assembly. A video made by Saxe students helped introduce the elementary students to Saxe and administrators shared more details about fifth grade.
The students also got to ask their most burning questions about middle school and get their answers straight from the mouths of current Saxe fifth-graders. The fifth- graders answered student-submitted questions about homework, cellphones, lockers and their new schedule. Bennhoff was particularly interested to learn more about the after-school activities, including an art club.
“They answered a lot,” Bennhoff said after the presentation.
“The video made you feel a lot more comfortable about getting lost,” she added.
Getting lost is a concern of many students, even those like Bennhoff, who has been to Saxe before thanks to her two older sisters. Luckily, Saxe administrators know better than to overwhelm their new students. For this particular worry, Bennhoff’s worry can be assuaged by the fact that teachers walk the new fifth-graders to class during their first few weeks at Saxe.
“Our philosophy is you want to give kids enough freedom so that they’re at the end of their comfort level,” said Steven Clapp, the fifth grade administrator at Saxe. “We pull support as they get more comfortable.”
With this new freedom comes both nerves and excitement for both students and parents. While Delaney is excited for the chance to do things like walk downtown after school, her mother, Jen, is a little more apprehensive.
“It feels premature, but kids grow up with it and they’re ready,” she said. “They’re excited to go.”
To make sure the students really are ready, there is some help to make the transition to middle school easier. Unlike the other grades, who switch between four teachers, fifth-graders have two teachers who split subjects, something Clapp says is the biggest thing making the team model easier for younger students. The fifth-graders also have their own hall and support staff.
To encourage mingling between the New Canaan elementary schools that feed into Saxe, the students are mixed into teams of about 48 students at the middle school. Clapp and his staff work to make sure the teams have a range of students from different schools to make it easier for students to meet new people. They also have parents fill out a questionnaire about their child’s learning style so the teams can have an assortment of different learners.
Bennhoff, who knows some students from other schools through playing town soccer and lacrosse, is nervous about sticking with familiar faces but isn’t too worried about meeting other people.
“I think some of my friends know people,” she said. “I think it might be easy.”