Hanover Schools keep delivering
Recently our daughter made the transition from elementary school (Bernice Ray School) to middle school (Frances Richmond School). It was a potentially scary time for her because she can be daunted by interactions with older kids, especially if any part of it involves the need to be "cool" or "popular". It was also potentially scary for us as parents because the gap in social development between a brand new 6th grader and a returning 8th grader can be enormous. Were we (and 120 of our closest friends) throwing our minnows into the pond with the big game fish?
Fortunately neither she nor we needed to worry. It isn't by chance or good fortune though - much more seems to be dependent on the fact that the faculty and staff understand the possible pitfalls and have the experience in planning and communication to minimize the trauma! There were group tours for each of the classrooms of 5th graders prior to the end of their school year and two orientation evenings for kids & parents. Although the information given during each of these events was likley repetitive I believe that multiple exposures to the environment and the information helped to diffuse lots of first day jitters.
After 3 weeks in the new environment we were invited to an open house (parents only) to experience a "day in the life" of our children, complete with a rotating class schedule and real-live requirements to navigate the classrooms between periods that let us know what our kids were expected to do several times per day. By the time this open house rolled around we were already prepared for a great experience as our daughter had displayed unexpected exuberance & enthusiasm in the opening weeks of school however I think we got MORE of everything than we anticipated.
Each teacher gave us a picture of their style, their standards, their macro & micro objectives and most importantly...what they offered to those students that wanted to take the subject further than the basics. Can you imagine 7 teachers voluntarily staying after hours to offer paths of exploration in a setting that welcomes the students to find their passion through "noodling"? What the very wise faculty seems to have pulled off here is to make the pursuit of passion "cool" and it certainly seems to be working.