When fifth graders prepare for moving to middle school, there are certain questions that they have which surveys have found are very common. Recently fifth graders at Campbell County Public schools responded to a survey asking what concerned them the most about the leap from elementary to middle school.
According to Linda Grubbs, who supervises the divisions counselors, the main concern across the county was lockers. “It’s something they have never, ever dealt with before in their lives. It’s the unknown.”
Grubba, a counselor herself, said she expected responses that mentioned relationships with other students, especially since fifth-graders were heading off to middle school, where they’d be surrounded by older children. Those sorts of responses surfaced, but they were third on the list, trailing lockers and the vastness of a new building.
It’s tempting to look at lockers as symbols of the puzzle that is middle school — especially to a young student fresh from the tiny, comfortable corridors of elementary school. A locker, after all, is a thing to be opened, just as a new world of independence is something to be unlocked.
But Grubba said the concern of the new sixth-grader is more immediate than that.
“It’s practical,” she said.
If a student can’t open a locker, she won’t be ready for class.
Still, a locker that doesn’t open as class is about to start shares traits with larger problems. A child is battling a difficulty on his or her own and suddenly needs to decide whether to ask for help. And for Grubba, who has worked as a school counselor for 27 years, the choice is clear.
“When something doesn’t work, ask for help,” she said.
It’s advice, she explained, that seeps into problems more profound than lockers.
“When things seem hopeless, whether it’s a locker or life in general, ask for help,” she said. “Always ask for help. Sometimes we forget that when we’re overwhelmed.”