What to Expect from OrientationBefore your child begins middle school, you will be asked to attend orientation or open house. This event will take place a few weeks or days before school begins. Parents and students can learn a lot from orientation. For starters, you may be offered the chance to take a tour of the school. Knowing where the buses load and unload, and where the gym and cafeteria are located is a vital step to helping your child make the transition from elementary school to middle school. Be sure you also take the time at orientation to locate bathrooms, the library, the guidance counselor's office, the nurse's office, and the administration office.
But there's more to orientation than learning where everything is. Orientation is also a time when teachers and principals communicate expectations for the year, or explain how the school has performed over the past year or so. Your child may learn important rules and regulations at orientation, and you may learn how discipline is handled, or how teachers expect you to foster your child's classroom success. Homework expectations may also be discussed.
Many schools distribute class schedules at orientation, so your child will likely learn who his teachers are, and what his schedule will be. This can be an exciting time for a student, and kids will likely want to see if they have any classes with their friends.
You may have the chance at orientation to meet your child's teachers. Teachers will often open up their classrooms at orientation so that you can see exactly where your child will spend the school day. You may also be able to review class textbooks at orientation, or review the class syllabus. Take the opportunity to ask about special projects that might be assigned throughout the year, as well as class field trips. Be sure you have contact information for each teacher before you leave orientation. Ask for the teacher's e-mail address, or ask how they would prefer you contact them should have a question or encounter a problem during the school year. Also, be sure you have contact information for the principal and the school guidance counselor.
Be sure you bring money or checks to orientation, because you may have the opportunity to purchase your child's gym uniform, school T-shirts, or mandatory school supplies such as calculators or science aprons. (Hint: if your budget allows, it's not a bad idea to purchase two gym uniforms, that way you can be sure there is always one that is clean and available.) It's also possible that you'll be able to pre-purchase lunches for your child at his school orientation.
It's possible that your child will be assigned a school locker at orientation. Before leaving, be sure he knows where his locker is, and have him try his combination. If the locker won't open, give it a little nudge. Sometimes that's enough to get it going. If not, bring it to the staff's attention, so that the maintenance staff can correct the problem before the first day of school.
School clubs, teams and organizations may be present at orientation. If they are, take the time to learn more about the after school opportunities that are available to your child. Ask questions and encourage your child to join a club or two, or think about joining a club. Participating in after school clubs is a great way to make new friends, and develop new skills.
In general, the day of orientation is not the best day to voice concerns over teacher assignments or other issues to the principal or staff. They are meeting dozens of new students and parents, and may not be able to give your concerns much attention. If you have a problem that you wish to resolve before school starts, try to raise your concern before or after school orientation.