VISD students adjust to new grade levels (w/video)

Gabriella Canales By Gabriella Canales

Aug. 21, 2017 at 10 p.m.
Updated Aug. 21, 2017 at 10:16 p.m.

Blake Thigpen, 11, gets off the school bus on the first day of school at Patti Welder Middle School.

Blake Thigpen, 11, gets off the school bus on the first day of school at Patti Welder Middle School.   Nicolas Galindo for The Victoria Advocate

Blake Thigpen's stomach dropped as he rode the school bus Monday - not from first-day jitters but because he forgot something important.

"I realized I forgot my lunchbox. It was chips and a pizza Lunchables," Blake, 10, said.

When he arrived at Patti Welder Middle School, his mother, Laura Thigpen, was waiting with his blue lunch sack.

"I'm glad she came," he said.

Blake is among 1,063 Victoria school district sixth-graders who are making the transition from elementary school to middle school.

About 14,300 Victoria school district students and 972 teachers returned to school Monday.

Before his alarm sounded Monday morning, Blake was awake and ready for school.

"I feel nervous and excited at the same time," he said as he waited for the bus to arrive at 7 a.m.

After a bacon-and-toast breakfast, he was eager to catch up with friends at school and compare their schedules for similar classes.

The seven classes on his schedule made him feel uneasy, Blake said. This is the first time he would have to navigate the campus to go from class to class.

"I'm nervous about not finding my classes or getting to them on time," he said.

Patti Welder Middle School officials welcomed students with a pep rally featuring guest speaker Gary Moses, a former teacher at the school and community spokesman.

Seeing his friends and getting to know the teachers helped calm Blake's nerves, he said.

Blake's first class was math with Meagan Chacon. The sixth-grade math teacher stood outside the classroom, welcoming students with excitement.

"I try to see through their eyes," Chacon said, recognizing the shyness and nervousness of her students.

Chacon skips first-day-of-class introductions that tend to put students on the spot, she said.

"To them, this is a big deal. It's a huge step to middle school from elementary," Chacon said. "This is more than one elementary coming together."

Blake chose to sit in the front row in all of his classes.

"I sit in the front to be able to see," he said. "For reading, I use glasses."

His favorite subject, English, came at the end of the day.

"Reading lets your mind take you to a different world," he said.

Going into middle school, Blake expects more homework and less television.

By lunch, he was ready to give his time as a middle-schooler a thumbs-up.

"I'm most looking forward to meeting new friends," he said.

Physical, social and academic are the three concerns of students transitioning into middle school, said Mary Lasater, assistant professor of education at the University of Houston-Victoria.

Middle school has a new culture where students are finding their social footing, she said.

"They go from being to the top of the ladder to the bottom of the ladder," Lasater said.

Participation in clubs, sports and extra-curricular activities will ease social concerns, she said.

Parents should take advantage of back-to-school visitations, she said.

Parents should also talk to their children about social skills, such as how to make and keep friends.

She said it's important to teach children "words and actions affect people. Be a good listener and problem solver."

Making eye contact with friends and adults is another lesson, Lasater said.

Classes are harder and there is more homework in middle school, Lasater said.

"It's not too unusual to see a dip in academic performance," she said. "They will adjust."

Instruction becomes less personalized, she said. Students become responsible for their own learning.

Parents should also cover time management and organization with their children, she said.

"Their brain is still developing, and they are learning a whole lot about becoming a teenager," she said. "Adolescence is a new period where they take on more adult-like responsibilities for themselves. Not all of them are ready for it."


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