This is also the final day of summer for my 12 year old son, who will begin middle school tomorrow morning. He’s very nervous (as am I) – it’s hard enough to be 12 and go to middle school, but to top that off with having to start down one friend due to a sudden move over the summer and a bit of social awkwardness (and braces), it’s bound to be nerve wracking. As for the mom, I’m just nervous because I’ve already had some challenges with the school over some items in his 504 plan. (My son carries a diagnosis of High Functioning Autism – which in his case requires just a few classroom accommodations – hence the “504 plan”) The bottom line is that I want him to do well, just as any other parent would want, and I don’t care to use his plan as a crutch, but I do expect it to be respected and followed. Simple. Yet not so much. *sigh* Anyway, tomorrow is the big day. My youngest starts preschool again as well, but somehow that’s not nearly as scary!
Middle school is a big step, and I remember my first day very well. Middle school began in 6th grade for me, which is a year younger than my son. I was actually 10 years old when school started that year (I have a November birthday). I’d already decided what I would wear, at the time not realizing that no matter what I chose, I would never look nearly as cool or put together as the 8th graders, and I was probably going to be ridiculed for not wearing a “designer” label on my jeans. That would become an almost every day issue as the year went on… Honestly I was shocked when I walked on to campus for the first time. It was the first year I’d had my own locker, and I can remember being awake for much of the entire night before the first day of school, worrying about what I would do if I couldn’t remember the combination or get my locker to work right – those silly combination locks were sometimes touchy! As I entered the hallways lined with lockers, the swarm of kids was nearly impossible to navigate, and while I was excited to see any face I recognized from elementary school, it was clear that school was never again to be the safe, friendly place it once was. I remember seeing kids kissing around campus for the first time, and my shock at their open affection for one another. I suppose I was a bit sheltered, but shouldn’t any kid be at 10? It was only as I grew to the point where I knew my way around campus along with where to hang out at lunch (back by the band room) and where to avoid (the girls bathrooms at ANY point of the day and yes – that made for some very interesting RUNS home after school – thank goodness I only lived a block away!) that made the school year bearable by any means. I stuck to my circle of friends, found a common interest in some sort of crazy rock band with a silly name, and spent my days wondering how I could meet and marry a drummer that was a good ten years older than I. Thank goodness for Duran Duran, because in the three year period where I felt the least like any of my fellow 6th, 7th or 8th graders, I focused more on the band, less on my own awkward moments. (which were plenty!!) Good times!
I’m sure my son will eventually get the hang of middle school. The situation at our school is fairly unique in that it’s only 2 grades of kids – yet about 1500 kids go to the school, and they work on a revolving schedule. That means the kids have 6 classes to go to every day, and each day they begin their teaching periods in a different class than the day prior. For example tomorrow they’ll start in homeroom – that class stays the same, and then they’ll go to their first through sixth period classes (they switch rooms for each class of course). The next day they’ll report to homeroom for 15 minutes of announcements, then go to their 2nd period class, then 3,4,5, 6 and end the day in their 1st period class. So every day it continues from there. It’s the only school in our area that does this, and while they tout all sorts of studies that say it works the best for all students, for my son in particular it’s a total nightmare. It’s the whole “Autism…I need a routine that stays the same” sort of thing. Eventually he’ll see the pattern, but let’s just say that for the first 3 weeks of school or so, we’re all liable to need medicating, and by “we” I mean ME. So yes, I’m nervous. I’m hopeful that he’ll settle in with a decent group of kids, and that by November I’ll be laughing at how worried I was in September. Wish me luck!