Stepping into High School - What Can You expect?

  • High School
Emmy Wise

When I was a middle school student, I remember the fears that I had about going into High School. This transition was a huge step for me, especially because I was going to attend a new school in a country that I was not familiar with. Everyone had different feelings: nervousness, excitement, happiness, anxiety. Nobody knew what to expect. Knowing what I know now, I realized that there was so much that I had not understood and so much that I overthought. In this article, I would like to share some expectations that you, a middle school student, can have during your transition period from middle school to high school. I know that it would have helped me when I was in 8th grade.    

Delara (Co-author) and I interviewed Mr. Mitchell, a current middle and high school English teacher and former High School Assistant Principal. We asked him several questions regarding the transition between middle and high school.  

Q: What advice would you give to a student who is a rising 9th grader? 
A: In terms of advice, I'd say the number one thing is to not panic about the change in the high school because so much of it is similar to what you were doing in Grade 8. In terms of MYP, still, the MYP program continues. You know, the rubrics, criteria, and the base grading; all that kind of stuff is similar. I know that now you're in high school and things change in that regard, but the number one thing is to just kind of understand that it's familiar. I would also say to really try to get involved in extracurricular activities because I know in middle school there may not be as many options; but in high school, there are lots of options for you to choose from. So, really try to get involved. I would say especially in Grades 9 and 10 because unfortunately in Grades 11 and 12, academically, things get pretty stressful and pretty rigorous. 

Q: What is one mistake that high school students make?
A: I think sometimes they do have that stress of "Oh my gosh we're in high school" like, "I'm so nervous" but I think they sort of blow everything out of proportion. I think one mistake students make is in our advisory program. You come into a room with 9s, 10s, 11s, and 12s and I know it can be a little bit awkward to come in and sit in homeroom with them. Here you are in high school and all of a sudden there are 11s and 12s in your room every morning, but I think a mistake would be to not connect with them. It would be scary to walk into a whole room of Grade 12s or room of 11s and start to connect with them but because it's just a couple, it's a good chance to get to learn things about different grade levels and you can't at your grade level. 

Q: What is something that is not talked about enough that should be talked about?
A: I think maybe that piece of information. When you get in high school, you know, you're still having all your classes with your grade level but you will be in rooms with other grade levels. I know that's mentioned maybe at orientation or it's in one of the slides. Even two 9s or three 9s can go together and sit with the 10s, 11s, or 12s to talk and break the ice because you will get to know them right away. And I don't know how much we explain that or express the importance of that so maybe that's not really talked about. I know another thing in high school is your transcripts; your grades count. But I do really want to stress that it isn't something that will be a major factor when you're trying to get into University. Even if they do, and they weren't very good, I think that can actually work in your favor. Because here you were in Grade 9 and maybe your grades weren’t good then but you've hopefully improved and that's a good sign.

Q: What problems could a 9th grader face?
A:  I don't think it's any different really in Grade 9 than in other grades. If it's a new student, now obviously it's a different situation. I think in terms of problems it would be missing opportunities because now all these extra clubs are offered. Maybe you think, "Oh you know, I'll wait and something will come to me" or "I don't really know what's out there" but don't ask or not find out. Talk to your advisor or homeroom teacher, talk to the 10s and the 11s. I keep coming back to this but, you know,  you have a lot of people around you every morning that you can ask questions to. I think that's sort of a piece that they could make a mistake on or even not know about. 

Q: What can students do to prepare for 9th grade?
A: I don't think there are any big transitions or big major things to do. I think just maybe one would be to try to figure out an organizational system that works for them. I know for some students it's a paper journal or homework log or some people use Notion, the computer program. Some people use Google Calendars to sort of organize their tasks. I think it's important to think of the benefits of those management systems because there are a lot of things coming at you in 9, 10, and of course in 11, and 12 they just increase. So, if you can get that good system in place then I think that helps. Another thing, I think we just need to get into a good healthy routine in terms of studying and sleeping. Make sure you get enough sleep! And, have some device time. It's healthy. But make sure you know what's a healthy amount and what's too much.  

Q: What friendship advice do you have?
A: Being a listener is really important. I think we spend too much time thinking that the people who are talking are the ones that are engaged or are ones who are really good at leading a group or leading a club, but listeners are really important. For leadership, listening is extremely important. I think sometimes in leadership positions, people think that the leaders need to be the ones talking and making decisions but a very important thing is to listen to what other people are saying so I think that translates into friendships as well. 

Q: What are teachers looking for in a high schooler?
A: Someone who is not afraid to make a mistake. I'd rather have a student make mistakes all the time but try than someone who's not going to try and they don't make any mistakes. I mean, I don't know where they're at sometimes and what they are thinking. Sometimes, academically, they're a lot more reserved so it can vary. I do feel that you should come in with an open mind and take the skills that you learned in middle school and try to improve them. 

Q: What advice would you give about extracurricular activities?
E: I would say to try to have a range of activities. You know, do something that's maybe going to challenge you intellectually and stimulate your brain or your mind and I know we have clubs like (for) that. And something for our body. You don't have to be good at sports. You can do yoga at home or go for runs or walks on your own and stuff like that. That's what's really good for your brain. Of course, even though it's good for your body or your physical (health), it's also about balance. You don't want to only do sports but you don't want to only just do clubs where you maybe sit around. Service is important as well so and of course for some that also will help you when you get to Grade 11 where you start from CAS which of course is going to hit on creativity activity and service. So I think you will be in a good place if you can already start to think about what you want to do. 

Q: How can a student build a good relationship with a teacher?
A: I think you just have to get to know them! You know, like if you come up and ask questions about school, it's our job to help you and our job to kind of try to explain or try to challenge you and engage intellectually but we're also humans. If you want a teacher to get to know you, try to get to know them. Don’t try to find information about the teacher but offer information about yourself and what you are interested in. Talk about yourself but also try to learn something about the teacher. I think just be curious. 

We hope this interview helps you feel more prepared for this upcoming change. Mr. Mitchell gave lots of useful advice such as the importance of taking care of yourself, creating a schedule to follow, and taking advantage of all the opportunities coming your way. Generally, you should not be overwhelmed or overly stressed and if you are there are places where you can reach out. Lastly, don’t worry about the logistics of everything. High school is a time to find your passions, build new skills, and have fun! 

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