By Sabrina Bartels
My husband and I recently decided to take the next step in our adult lives and buy a house. It’s been a stressful whirlwind of an adventure, but nothing comes close to the sheer panic of trying to box up everything in our apartment and get it ready to move. There is definitely an art to packing things, and in between all the bubble wrap, packing tape, and cardboard boxes, I will be thankful when we’re done. In fact, I’ve decided that I never want to see a cardboard box again (unless it contains a pizza.)
Moving can trigger a lot of memories and emotions for people. While I’m remembering certain events about moving – being homesick, my father helping me wrestle a futon up a flight of stairs – I am also remembering what made each of these “homes” unique. I think about my parents’ home, which will always be “home” to me, no matter how far away I travel, and how that place is my constant: the place that reminds me of my childhood and the wonderful memories I have there. I remember the college dorms I lived in, with Grey’s Anatomy viewing parties and lofted beds so we could maximize the space, where I learned how to live with others. I fondly recall my days in my first apartment, where four of my best friends and I lived for two years, where I really began to assert my independence and become an adult. And then I think about the apartment I am in now, and all the memories attached to it: getting married, expanding my cooking horizons, and hosting Thanksgiving dinner.
With all of these things going on in my head during this move, I think about how hard it must be for my students to move on from middle school. They have established memories and an identity within the middle school’s walls; now, they are off on a new adventure. They will be meeting new people, building new relationships, and trying new things. And while I can’t speak for all of my students, I can’t help but wonder if some of them will be “homesick” for middle school. Despite the fact that middle school can be the toughest years of anyone’s life, my students know middle school. They’re comfortable with it. They know what to expect; well, as much as you can while in the ever-changing dynamic of 8th grade.
I also think about my incoming 6th grade students, who are moving in to middle school. Similar to my outgoing 8th grade class, they are leaving the comfortable environment of elementary school and entering a whole new world. I can only imagine the anxiety that some of them feel while transitioning. What will middle school be like? Will I make friends? Will I like my teachers? How will it be different than elementary school, and how will it be the same? I also think about the students that may be moving into this district; they are entering a place where a lot of the students have known each other from a young age. They may worry about fitting in or finding their own voice.
Finally, I think about all the moves occurring among my teachers. Some teachers will be “moving in” to the school this year, which will hopefully be an exciting time for them. If they are new teachers, they will experience the joy of having their own classroom, planning their own lessons, making their own place within the district and within the school. If the teachers are coming from other buildings, they will be able to enjoy new faces, new students, and new adventures within the building. And for the teachers who are staying, they will be anticipating a “move” that involves new dynamics in the building. Schools are constantly changing and evolving to do what is best for students, and this year is no different. Without a doubt, it is still a “move” that will involve change, and change isn’t always easy.
I remember telling my husband that moving wasn’t interesting, and wondering how I could make it fit in with counseling and my students. But in truth, I guess it does. It has made me stop and think about how each of my students are moving into middle school. Moving to a house and moving into another level of school are both a major transition, but I think my students and I can handle it together.