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The big leap to middle school bigger than going to college

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Do not walk in holding hands with your mother.

Make sure you are not wearing undies with pictures of princesses or Elmo.

Do not hang around guys who look as if they'd like to beat you up or girls who could star in the next mean-girl movie.

These are just a few suggestions for those about to make the giant leap from elementary to middle school.

School counselor Suzanne Wendorf describes the passage as the biggest transition students will make in their educational lifetimes.

"It's even bigger than going to college," Wendorf says. "By the time kids go to college, they're older, and they can handle it."

Students must learn to juggle as many as eight classes, two lockers, a school two or three times the size of their elementary campus, heightened academic expectations and a student body that ranges in size and physical development from little kid to practically grown.

That's not even to mention an environment with more rules, firmer discipline and more serious consequences.

"The transition is very scary," family therapist Jeremy Pierce says. "The sixth-graders have lots of different worries about fitting in."

To help, we solicited survival tips from Pierce in Baytown, Wendorf at Bush Middle School in San Antonio, Samuel Maldonado and Cary Cooper, both administrators at Houston's Lanier Middle School, and Louise O'Donnell, a psychologist with the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Without further ado:

1. Walk that fine line between maintaining your individuality and blending in.

Says Pierce, "Take a look at what you're wearing and how you walk and present yourself. Ask yourself, 'Am I doing anything that would set me apart and make me look very, very different?' "

Best advice: tone it down.

2. Adults like to think kids won't be bullied or tempted by drugs in school. But if that does happen, tell an adult who will lend a hand, hold your story in confidence and not cause you even more trouble with the offender, O'Donnell says.

3. If you're invited to tours or orientation sessions at your new school, by all means go. When the first day rolls around, you'll be glad you did.

4. There will be times when you'll feel like you're the only one on the planet suffering and struggling as you are.


5. Make friends. Extend yourself. And while you're at it, remember it's not all about you. Focus on them.

6. Sign up for the school activities that speak to you. You will meet like-minded kids.

7. Ask questions, lots of them. And if you feel yourself getting behind, talk to your teacher or counselor.

8. Say somebody does pick on you in the hall. Don't engage. Keep going.

9. Get organized, now and forever. Life will be way easier if you carry a planner and really know how to use your combination locks.

10. There's lots of trash talk about middle school. Remember, most of it isn't true.


Do wear boxers; throw out the SpongeBob undies.

Pack your lunch in a brown paper bag; little kid lunch kits are not cute anymore.

Sixth grade calls for a grown-up backpack. Do not be seen with Dora the Explorer.