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Monday, August 30, 2010

Climbing Up The Stairs

Seventh grade orientation is scheduled for tomorrow morning. For these boys and girls the transition from elementary school to secondary school will only require a couple of minutes walk up two flights of stairs above their classrooms of the past, yet it will be a significant advance in their climb toward personal goals. It will prove to be as big of a change and challenge as the one they encountered years ago when they entered Kindergarten.

This will eventually become a mere memory, blending in with the many other experiences within their school life, but tomorrow will fill each of them with anxiety and fear, and hope and promise. That is often the push-and-pull life of an adolescent; a roller coaster of emotions, up and down, left and right, going in every direction all at once. How will I get to my classes, and carry all those books? How will I react to having a different teacher for each subject? What if I don't understand what's going on? What will I do if the bigger kids tease me???

They will endure and survive, grow and progress emotionally, socially, and emotionally between tomorrow and graduation day at levels that will benefit them every bit as much as the intellectual gains they make in achievement. The lessons they will learn beyond those in history, math, and science..., will fill a backpack and more. They will see the value in networking and interacting outside of their circle of comforting friends, learning from differences, questioning their own perspectives while reaffirming their values and beliefs, stretching their imaginations, testing their limits, and creating their identities as they lurch toward adulthood.

However, no matter the depth of their relationships with the many "best friends" they will make in school, they will need support from meaningful adults during this adventure. The ability of these teens to connect with an adult role model is vital to their success. They need someone to look up to, someone to listen to them, someone to shepherd them along their journey - someone who cares.

That's why the staff at Heatly has committed to serving as mentors for all of the kids at school, not just these new seventh graders. The District Leadership Team worked together last year to propose and plan a mentoring program for all the boys and girls in the school. This is a bold initiative that reflects the dedication, empathy, and care of the staff members. Each staff member will meet periodically with a handful of kids and offer an accommodating ear, a watchful eye, and a helpful shoulder. It's a work in progress as we find our own footing on this important responsibility.

We'll be providing more details through our district website regarding the mentoring program as it evolves.

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