There are a lot of reasons why this transition is not successful for all grade 9 students in many boards. Off the top of my head, this is because differences include:
- Students go from knowing their way around their school very well to not knowing where to find anything or anyone.
- Students go from having two nutrition breaks in the day to one lunch break (that's gotta make the period before lunch soooo hard for hungry students!).
- Students go from having opportunities to play and get outside (recess is a given) to having nothing like this scheduled (students can go out at lunch time, but don't have to).
- Students spend more time on the bus. Bus rides, in a rural area like ours, get longer as there is only one high school servicing a large geographical area.
- Students go from having one teacher who knows them (and the 30 other students in her/his class) really well to having four teachers who know them (and the 70 other students they teach that semester) very little.
- Students go from knowing all the teachers in their school (having been taught by most of them) to knowing NONE of the teachers in the high school.
- Students go from knowing what one teacher expects from them to having four potentially very different teachers, and having to juggle a myriad of expectations.
- Students go from having the same peer group to support them all day to different peer groups that change throughout the day.
- Students may not even be with their usual peer group if their timetable is significantly different than their friends'.
- Students go from unstreamed classes to streamed classes (that carry their own stigmas).
- Students go from a modified curriculum (such as working at a grade 6 level in math) right into the grade 9 curriculum.
- Students move into an environment where grades matter, exams are written, and credits need to be achieved. There are consequences for not passing a course.
- Students can leave the school at lunch to walk up to a local restaurant, or just hang around outside the whole time. Some students aren't very good at disciplining themselves to come back to school in time for third period after this new-found freedom.
In short, there's a LOT that students need to adjust to when moving from grade 8 to grade 9. Part of my job this year is to examine how that transition is happening and what we can do to help students better bridge the gap.
So I'm looking for suggestions. What can we, as grade 8 and grade 9 teachers, do to help our students be as successful as possible as they manage these changes? Which of the above factors can we control and exert influence over? If we could make a TOP TEN list of ways to help students make the transition, what would that list include?