Making the transition from elementary school to junior high is not easy. And seemingly minor frustrations, like forgetting a locker combination, can in small ways hinder students academically and socially.
Natalie Laliberty realized that last year when her son, Christopher, went from being a solid-B 6th grader to a 7th grader struggling to stay above a C average. So she proposed a teacher-exchange program between her son's school, Hayes Junior High School in St. Albans, W.Va., and its five feeder elementary schools, all in the 30,000-student Kanawha County district near Charleston.
"I felt the teachers didn't understand how different the environments were and wanted the students to change in a day," said Ms. Laliberty, who works as a librarian at one of the elementary schools.
All the elementary schools' 6th grade teachers took turns switching places for one day last month with 7th grade teachers from Hayes.
The experience, Ms. Laliberty said, showed just how different expectations were at each level. In 6th grade classes, for example, one teacher made sure students knew what homework they had at the end of each day, but the 7th grade students were on their own.
The elementary schools are now working on a plan to start teaching students how to become more responsible and organized.
Some teachers go to great lengths to educate their students. For Mike Cooper, a physical education teacher in Burke, Va., that distance is 26.2 miles--the length of the Boston Marathon.
While he was preparing to run in this week's historic race, the 39-year-old instructor took students on computer tours of the marathon route and reported on his high-protein, high-carbohydrate diet.
And, thanks to a computer chip attached to each marathoner's shoe, Mr. Cooper's students plan to log on to the Internet to track their teacher's progress at 11 checkpoints along the route.
"Combining physical education and computer skills can be tough, but that is what we're doing," said Mr. Cooper, who teaches at Terra Centre Elementary School in northern Virginia.
Mr. Cooper's students, many of whom are training for the President's Physical Fitness Test, took turns running with him on a 13-mile run this month.
"You have to get students motivated. That's the whole name of the game," Mr. Cooper said.
Vol. 18, Issue 32, Page 3