How Fifth Graders Are Supported Through Transition to Middle School

by Sloane Millar ’31 and Ella Rosario ’31, Contributing Writers for The Polygon

The transition from fourth grade at the Lower School to fifth grade at the Middle School is always one of the most difficult in a Poly student’s academic life because they have to change campuses. Additionally, while it is difficult to navigate the many classrooms and halls in the Middle and Upper School, there is a great support system and always a friend or teacher to help you. The Polygon interviewed new fifth graders, deans, teachers, and the new Head of Middle School to gain perspectives from the Poly community on this transition. 

First, The Polygon spoke to two people in the fifth grade coming from the Lower School, Leo C. ’31 and Mila S. ’31. Leo said, “I liked the Lower School because we have a lot of free time where we can play and have fun.” Leo also stated, “Lower School is very different from Middle School because we have a lot more responsibilities.” Mila said, “I liked the Lower School because there were lots of good people. It was fun because we got to be with the little kids. Although, the Middle School is different from the Lower School because it’s such a bigger campus.” 

Grade 5 field trip to the Museum of Natural History with Middle School Librarian Samantha Owen (right)

Next, The Polygon got the perspectives of two students in the fifth grade who are new to Poly: Karina S. ’31 and Hudson W. ’31. Hudson said, “I liked my old school because it was quite a friendly community. However, the timing and size of the school is different – it’s much bigger. Before, lunch at my old school was at 1:30 PM instead of 12:45 PM. The transition has been going well […] But probably the hardest part of the transition is leaving my friends. However, I’m looking forward to learning more challenges.” Karina added that she liked her old school because it let her learn a variety of things. 

Amanda Rose
Amanda Rose

According to Middle School Dean Amanda Rose, “We help fifth graders from the Lower School with the transition by letting incoming students visit the Upper School and [we] organize a fun time where they get to visit and learn about the campus and the dean team.” 

Rose added that the Middle School has several events to help fifth grade students with the adjustment, such as the Meet Your Dean event and Poly Palooza, where you can meet your Poly pal (or someone who has been to Poly and is your age and can tell you about the school) and dean. “For all students, the deans also organize summer meetings where they get to know students and families and answer any questions before school starts. In September, the fifth grade had a two-day orientation instead of only one day, where younger kids on campus got to know how there are support systems.”

“The current fifth graders at Poly are superstars, they’ve been wonderful as a grade and showed lots of commitment, joy, and confidence,” Rose said. 

Head of Middle School Daniel Doughty added, “We thought hard about how to get [them] all acclimated; this year we organized a special fifth grade-only orientation. All the other kids were off campus but we wanted [them] to have some extra time to get used to the layout of the school, meet some other teachers, figure out some other things like how to use the library and where the nurse is […] throughout the first month we tried to have activities in advisory and cohort to help you get to know other kids and to get to know Poly and our expectations.” 

Teachers have also been helping their fifth grade students. Middle School Librarian Samantha Owen enjoys assisting her fifth graders with books. “I think having stories that we can read that are about what we’re going through can be really helpful with transitions,” Owen explained. 

“Those first couple of weeks it’s a learning curve, so it’s very different from the Lower School – you’re going from class to class, so I noticed, in the beginning, there’s a lot of asking, ‘Where do I go’ and ‘Where is my classroom,’ sometimes getting turned around in this very big school. But something that I’ve noticed recently is less people asking me where their classroom is and everyone knowing exactly where they need to go and being confident as they navigate the school,” Owen added.

As students continue to adjust, Rose left them with some suggestions: “My advice to Grade 5 students is to be yourself! Middle School, and life, is much easier that way. It’s a time of big transition and a lot of change, so if you ever have moments of self-doubt, lean into your support system: parents, teachers, advisors, the Middle School counselor, coaches, deans, and friends. There are so many people at Poly that care about you, want to help you do your best, and accept you for who you are! Also, take advantage of this time of not having grades. Develop solid organization systems and study habits that can be applied to all of your classes and help you for the rest of your academic career.”