Transitioning to Secondary School

It can be an exciting and challenging time moving up in the school system from primary or intermediate school to secondary school. You are moving from being the big fish in a small pond to the exact opposite. It can be really daunting for some. Below are 10 key ideas and strategies to help make the transition successful.

1. Take Initiative:
Be proactive in this learning journey. This applies to both the students and the parents. Seek out resources, ask questions and when you are not sure, take the first step towards knowledge. It is also crucial to check understanding as many of the confusions and misalignments stem from a lack of clarity. It’s the old adage, don’t assume (ass/u/me: it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.) Each school has its own systems and procedures. Ask and seek clarity. As a student, if it is not ‘cool’ or doesn’t feel ‘safe’ to ask in class, ask after class, send an email or schedule a meeting time.

2. Respect Differences 
Understand that high school is diverse. It is, as Forrest Gump says in the 1994 movie of the same name, “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get!” Every year level is different. It is a big melting pot and a wonderful opportunity to meet people with a range of different ideas and beliefs. Treat everyone with respect, appreciating the various backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives you’ll encounter. There is richness in being able to understand life from differing points of view.

3. Adaptability:
High school brings changes and chances, and adaptability is key. There will be new routines, a different teacher each hour, corridors of classrooms and new subjects. While schools often do not teach note taking, it is important you learn how, as many teachers will expect this. Take a course, Google tips and techniques and know that notes do not have to be taken in the way the teacher says. Test a few different
strategies and evaluate their effectiveness. Most of the content you learn in the first two years of High School will be built upon in your senior years. It is the foundation of success. Secondary school is a chance to test out new ideas, ways to learn and remember, study and learning strategies. While in most schools, teachers will be teaching a subject; maths, horticulture, German, etc, the underlying premise is to learn how to learn. Embrace these new challenges with an open mind and you’ll excel.

4. Nurture Relationships:
This is about building strong bonds with teachers and peers. Relationships can positively impact the learning experience and provide valuable support. This is a chance to join clubs, connect with like-minded people and perhaps make friends for life.

5. Stay Organised:

This is a great time to start developing effective time- management skills. These skills will last a lifetime. With teachers issuing assignments, tasks, and giving dates for tests, it is important to keep track of these. Keep a planner or digital calendar to track assignments, projects, and deadlines. Use your phone if that works for you. If you are taking digital notes, practice filing them into subject folders on your desktop. The use of hashtags or keywords in documents and titles will make it easier to locate the file later on. Create systems to ensure work is handed in on time. This might be reminder alerts on your phone or calendar. Create a space to study and do homework and ensure all the supplies you need will be there.


6. Independence:
This transition is the start of taking responsibility for your education. High school grants more freedom,
and with freedom comes more responsibility. Use it wisely to make informed choices. Independence does
not mean you have to do this on your own, it means asking for help when you need it. High school serves as a stepping stone to adulthood. It offers opportunities for students to explore career interests, consider university or vocational options and develop skills that will be valuable in the future. Engage in class and be an active participant in your education.


7. Time Management:
Prioritise your tasks wisely. Allocate sufficient time for studying, extracurricular activities, and personal growth. A great tip is to take 5-10 minutes at the start of each week and plan your week. Having an overview of what is expected for the week and seeing where you can schedule assignments and school tasks will help lower stress levels and keep you on top of the work. Avoid multitasking as it actually slows your brain down and research shows can lower your IQ! Turn off distractions and notifications and work on one subject at a time during a study session.


8. Intrinsic Motivation:
Harness your intrinsic motivation to stay dedicated to your studies and attain your desired achievements. This means you need a goal, a reason to learn the information. You may not know which career paths
you want to go down just yet, so take every learning opportunity you can without overloading yourself. If you are not sure ‘why’ you are learning something, create more motivation by searching for real-world applications and relevance. Set weekly achievable goals to motivate you in those subjects you are finding
challenging. Small successes and wins will increase your motivation to keep going.

9. Optimism:
Maintain a positive attitude, even during challenges. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Use affirmations and positive sayings, to keep your brain focused on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. Know that everything is hard before it is easy, and you can do hard things! Just because your parents were not good at something, doesn’t mean you won’t be great at it. Being good at Maths, English, or Art is not in your DNA! A positive mindset leads to more success. Also, know this – in the first 1-2 weeks of High School, you are going to get lost and not know which class you have next or where to find that classroom. Instead of getting upset, make it a game, a quest to get lost 3 times in your first week! Find the fun in the transition and the challenges it brings.

10. Navigate:
As you navigate this new part of your life, know that, as business coach, Robin Sharma says, “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.” Before you know it, you will be confident in your new environment and showing others the ropes. Remember, the transition from primary school to high school is a transformative period in your life. High school is a voyage – you’ll encounter turbulent waters, tranquil stretches, and gusty winds, and at times, you’ll need to have faith in the stars! By following these tips, you’ll be better prepared to excel academically, develop valuable life skills, and enjoy a fulfilling high school experience.

Published on Friday, November 10th, 2023, under Parenting, Study Skills, Uncategorized

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

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