Easing the middle school transition for students entering and leaving is an ongoing and important part of building a school community. At Indian Trail Middle School in Plainfield, NJ, principal Jennifer Archer seeks to welcome entering sixth graders and empower departing eighth graders.
She developed the PAWS program – Positively Affecting Wildcat Success – to provide incoming students with eighth grade mentors. In turn, the mentors develop leadership experiences.
“I think the fact that a sixth-grader can go up to an eighth-grader [at Indian Trail] and give them a high-five means a job well done,” Archer said.
The mentors create social and team building activities with incoming students. They introduce the new students to their teachers and show them how to get to classes. They also assist them throughout the year.
Sometimes, the transition to middle school can be unsettling for even the brightest students.
“I always felt like one of the good kids,” said Elizabeth Taylor, a sixth-grade student. “But when I came here, I was like, ‘Everyone is so much taller than me.’ I actually thought I saw my fourth-grade teacher, but it was one of the eighth-grade girls.”