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Spokane

Workshop, mentors help sixth-graders calm their nerves

Hannah McDevitt frantically organized and reorganized the brightly colored binders, pens and notebooks in her new locker in Coeur d’Alene’s Canfield Middle School.

The anxious sixth-grader wanted to be ready when classes start today. She’s fretting about whether she’ll be able to get her locker open and get to classes on time. Classmate Paige Drechsel, just a few lockers away, is worried about forgetting things she needs for class.

Canfield’s incoming sixth-graders spent a couple of hours at their new school last week, attending a motivational workshop, meeting their mentors and taking a school tour to help their first day go a little smoother.

Leaving a familiar elementary school for a busier, more crowded middle school is the toughest transition kids make during their K-12 career, according to the National Association of School Psychologists.

“At the same time that young adolescents are adapting to hormonally induced physical, emotional and cognitive changes, they suddenly enter new educational environments that are typically less nurturing, larger, more departmentalized, more competitive, and more demanding academically,” the association wrote.

Spokane and Coeur d’Alene school districts are in step with others across the nation in developing programs to help students transition to middle school. Those include “sneak peek” days where incoming students can tour their new school in the spring before they start, and pairing newcomers with eighth-grade mentors.

Canfield students started their day with a workshop. Stu Cabe, a national speaker and Coeur d’Alene resident, specializes in developing a positive school climate and culture. He talks about setting a good example, working hard, playing fair and being kind.

“Go to bed every night knowing no one is feeling bad because of something you said,” is among his many messages.

After the workshop, sixth-graders and their mentors toured the school.

An eighth-grader pointed out to one student, “That’s the good bathroom.” When one sixth-grader had trouble opening her new locker, a quick Fonzie punch from her mentor did the trick.

Despite the introduction to her new school, Cheyenne Jones, 11, still couldn’t contain her angst. “I’m a bit scared ’cause it’s new,” she said. Her mother, Nicole Kelley, added, “New school, new area; she’s nervous.”



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