Making the big leap from primary to middle school

  • Guiding the way: Richelle Richards teaches at Sandys Secondary Middle School by day and runs Child, Adolescent and Family Art Therapy Service in the evening (Photograph supplied)

    Guiding the way: Richelle Richards teaches at Sandys Secondary Middle School by day and runs Child, Adolescent and Family Art Therapy Service in the evening (Photograph supplied)

At the end of each day, art teacher Richelle Richards has often collected a box of lost items belonging to children — water bottles, sneakers, lunch bags. She has seen some middle-school students go home without shoes.

“How do they not know they don’t have these things,” Ms Richards said.

She teaches at Sandys Secondary Middle School by day and runs Child, Adolescent and Family Art Therapy Service in the evening.

As a teacher, she has noticed that in the early months of school, students often wander the school halls looking dazed and confused. They often leave half of what they need for class in their lockers and sometimes fail to even write their names on their assignments.

“They are used to their primary teacher recognising their handwriting,” Ms Richards said.

“Sometimes it takes them until April to find their way.”

To help smooth the adjustment from primary school, she is offering a two-day boot camp this week for students entering middle school, and an eight-week check-in programme once school starts.

She is offering the camp through her art therapy business.

“In the boot camp, they will learn different modules that help with organisation,” she said.

“We will be making sure they understand the importance of using an agenda to keep track of homework assignments, presentations and different due dates.”

Students will also learn good study habits, and how to prioritise assignments and organise their lockers effectively.

“If your stuff is all over your locker, then you will be late for class trying to find what you need,” she said.

Students in the camp will take part in discussions, games and art therapy activities.

Ms Richards saw the challenges first-hand, when her daughters, Kaiya and Trai, went to middle school. They are now in their twenties.

“When they went to middle school, I thought I could relax a bit,” she said.

Then she got the first report card.

“When I got my daughter’s first report, I said what is going on here,” she said.

“I had to make that effort to go to her school and find out what was happening.”

She found out that her daughter was disorganised and missing assignments.

“The pace of the classes was much faster,” she said.

“My children felt like they had been dropped in the deep end.”

Ms Richards said that in primary school, children were usually with one teacher all day, except for physical education, music and art. That one teacher often knows them inside and out.

“Some primary teachers are really lovely and will help their students pack up their bags at the end of the day,” she said.

“That doesn’t happen in middle school. The student has to be accountable for themselves for the first time.”

In middle school, students may have at least six teachers, possibly more.

“The teacher isn’t going to recognise their handwriting,” she said.

“The teacher may have 100 other students. The teacher will not know you forget certain things.

“Socially, friend groups can also change a great deal from primary to middle school.

“You might have students from four different primary schools coming into a middle school,” she said.

“And the child’s primary school friends might be going to different schools.”

As a result there is a lot of friend drama during the first months of middle school.

The changes can cause some children to become stressed.

“It does get overwhelming for them,” she said. “They have six teachers, at a minimum, that are giving them homework. They have to learn how to prioritise and ask for help.”

She said that some children tested their boundaries in middle school because they realised that teachers did not call parents as often, unless there was a serious discipline issue.

Ms Richards said some parents would come to the school and sit in on class, when they realised their children were struggling, so they could get a better understanding of the situation.

This year may be an even bigger challenge because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It normally takes students about a month to adjust to being back to school, but these children have been out since March,” she said.

“Following the new rules coming for social-distancing will be a lot as well. Some children might be split up in different classes. It will be a change.”

Ms Richards has taught in local schools for 16 years and started CAF this year, from home.

The boot camp will be held on Thursday and Friday at Spirit House in Devonshire from 9am to 2.30pm. The cost is $250. It is open to public and private school students.

Check-in will start the second week of school. Students can take the boot camp without checking in.

For more information, visit or e-mail

You must be registered or signed-in to post comment or to vote.

Published Aug 17, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 17, 2020 at 8:20 am)

Making the big leap from primary to middle school

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon

  • Take Our Poll

    Today's Obituaries

    eMoo Posts