Heading to High School

Making the jump from junior high

by mindy baker

Another school year is almost upon us and the endless days of summer are going to be coming to an end.     Time to start shopping for back to school supplies, the perfect back pack, and of course…new clothes.  This school year will be another year that many teenagers will make the leap from middle school to high school.  Make no mistake, this is a day that each teenager has had in their minds for a very long time.  In all accounts, teenagers agree they experience a wide range of emotions about entering high school and what awaits them.

Comfort Zone

     With junior high behind them, along goes the status of being upperclassmen and knowing a majority of the student body.  Gone are the days when they knew the owner of the locker just by looking at the number.  Walking the halls with their eyes shut and calling out the classrooms are a great memory but saying goodbye to friends that were going to attend other schools in the fall is coming to the front of their minds now.  A campus of under 500 students at the middle school forum fails to compare to the roughly 2,100 students enrolled at our high schools in the Billings area. 

     Brad, an incoming freshman, says overall he is looking forward to getting into high school.  Being able to pick his own classes was a nice change for him and he says he is really looking forward to meeting new girls.   He does admit, that he is worried that the teachers are going to be more strict and that his parents will expect more out of him since his older sister just graduated and did so well throughout high school.

     Jason, another entering freshman, confides that he is very excited to be trying out for the high school football and wrestling programs.  Jason has aspirations to attend Texas University when he graduates and is worried about not making the requirements to be considered.  He doesn’t know what to expect in the way of class work and is afraid that he will have trouble balancing both sports and academics and satisfying the requirements for admissions.  I don’t know about you, but I was just worried about having the right outfit for the first day of school.  

Tools of the Trade:

     The school faculties know that this is a transition period for Freshman and have put together many tools and programs that can ease the transition from middle school to high school for your teen.  Some of you remember your eighth grader talking to you a few months ago about the pre-registration for high school and that the counselors came to their school and talked to them.  Then there was the field trip to the campus for a tour and of course showing them where the cafeteria was.  If your teen missed getting the chance to talk to the counselors or missed the campus tour don’t panic.  Many staff members are back at school in early August.  Call your high school and speak to the counselors to see about a tour.  Just knowing the lay of the land can ease the mind of your teen. “Don’t be afraid to ask for anything that might help your teen” says Allison Kipp.  Allison is a Biology teacher at Billings Senior High School and urges parents to get involved at the high school level.  “If this is their first child in high school and they too are a little nervous, they can learn a lot about the school and what is going on by just being involved” she says.

First Day Jitters:

The first day of school will indeed be the most exciting and overwhelming day for your teen.  School district 2 has only the incoming freshman and new students attend.  Kim Forquer from Billings Senior explains that it enables the new students to have one day where they can get to know the school and their schedule without the entire student body in the halls.  Upperclassmen who qualify as Mentors also attend to assist the students with questions, school rules, lockers, and directions.  The Deans and Counselors are also available on the first day to help if needed. “Having a connection with an upperclassmen is a must for a new student” says Allison.  Parents can even attend a principal meet and greet on the same day where they review school rules and goals for the year.   While some schools may vary, Kim says school district 2 has many of the same programs in place for each high school.

     While going through their schedule, most district school 2 Freshman will notice they are scheduled to attend the Academy in the morning or the afternoon.  Donna Schlepp from Billings West High School says that freshman are bussed to an off site location that has a smaller learning environment.  Each high school has a different off site location.  To locate where your teen will go, call the administration office of your high school.

     “My daughter Kayla seemed to be a little lost the first couple weeks of school” mom Gail says.  “I realized that her friends were not in her classes and they were also not scheduled to have the same lunch time as her.” Kayla, now a sophomore, admits she didn’t expect to be without her friends most of the day.  She encourages incoming freshmen to be open to new relationships and not to be shy and cut off. 

     Emily, also a sophomore now, whispers that she had gotten lost when she was a freshman at Billings West more than once.  She advises incoming freshmen to ask anyone around you for directions…don’t be shy.  Both girls agree that their social circle has grown significantly and that high school is much more fun than they thought it was going to be.

Parent Help:

     You know your teen best.  Talk to them before school begins and see where their excitement and pangs are at.  School can be your best tool to get answers to questions you or your teen might have about anything from bus location and schedule to cafeteria food and student ID cards.  Encourage your teen to inquire about all the clubs and sport activities your high school has to offer.  High Schools have something for every student and just about every interest. 

     Ask your teen about their first day of school.  They might be as eager to tell you as you are to listen.

     Stay in touch with what is going on with your teen at school.  “School district 2 uses a web based program called Zangle to keep Teachers, Students, and Parents connected” says Allison Kipp.  Parent Connect through Zangle lets parents get a user pin and password to log onto a website to view their child’s activity at school.  Some of the things a parent can see are test scores, current grades, completed assignments, and attendance.   Students can also log in through Student Connect and review their activity as well.  Emily was surprised to learn that a lot of kids don’t care about their grades as much as she did.  She explained that at times it was a big distraction and affected her own grades.

     Remember that information is power.  The more you know, the more qualified you are to make the best decisions for yourself.  The more your teen knows about what is available to them, the more they will take advantage of the opportunities at their high school and get the most out of their high school experience.  The first day of school will come and go and before you know it, they will be again starting another year of school. SFM

Mindy Baker lives in Billings with her husband and four tweens/teens.  She loves to travel and spend time with her horses.