Fifth graders prepare to leave the nest with MD Orientation

Fifth+graders+prepare+to+leave+the+nest+with+MD+Orientation

Avery Vukhac and Anya Mirza

On Saturday, rising sixth graders came to campus for their Middle Division (MD) orientation after two years of orientation programming being held online. “I feel excited about entering middle school and orientation made me more excited,” Tyler Soroca (5) said.

The orientation ran from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm. Students and parents were split into separate groups, both of which listened to lectures. 

The lectures were split into two parts, Alyssa Au P ‘29 said. First, Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly gave the parents a general idea of what life in the MD would be like. Then, Head of MD Javaid Khan spoke to them. 

Khan said that he gave both the parents and students their own mock assemblies in order to introduce them to life in the MD. During the assembly for the parents, he showed a Ted Talk to convey the importance of their roles in their student’s life, Alyssa said. “He also went into specifics about placement exams for new students among other class related items,” she said. On the students’ end, the majority of the orientation involved listening to speakers and communicating with new students, Lani Chen (5) said. 

Since MD orientations in the past few years have been abnormal due to Covid-19 restrictions, Khan was given freedom to redesign the event to be the most beneficial for parents and students. Khan felt that in past years there has been too much information and lecturing packed into this one event which could be overwhelming. “[W]e made adjustments to the day, prioritized which information was essential at this point in their journeys, and then looked to create an experience that left families and students feeling excited about the school and community they are joining,” Khan said. 

MD is very different from what Lower Division (LD) students are used to, with a larger number of students and campus size. “I won’t be familiar with everyone around me,” Chen said. Vivian Chen, parent of Lani Chen, is excited for her daughter to get to experience the freedom that comes with being on a larger campus. 

Though Khan and Kelly spoke about the MD experience, students weren’t exposed to too much of the campus, Holly Soroca P ’29, ‘25,and ‘23 said. “There were no tours of a classroom,” she said. The new campus evoked anxiety in rising sixth graders as they navigated confusion about where they would go for their classes, Holly said.

Even if they were unable to explore all of it, students found that even seeing certain parts of the campus such as the atrium, Gross Theater, and the Cohen Dining Commons helped make them feel more comfortable about entering the MD. Holly said that all the students eating lunch together in the cafeteria made the middle school less intimidating for them. “Just being in the cafeteria made them feel more comfortable, and seeing where they were going to eat,” she said. Being able to be with his friends and make new friends during lunch was his favorite part of the day, James Au (5) said.  

Despite anxieties about the large and new campus, rising sixth-graders, like Tyler, have much to look forward to after attending the orientation. He is excited to befriend new students next year. 

Holly was appreciative of the information that parents were able to receive about their child’s upcoming MD experience. At times, it can be difficult to understand the context of what their children are telling them, so Holly was glad to join administrative lectures. “They were hearing simultaneously what we [parents] were learning about so that we had information about what to ask the kids when we got home,” she said. 

Parents who have older children, such as Holly and Alyssa, have noticed that there were some changes implemented since their attendance at past orientations. One major difference is that this year each sixth-grader will be required to take a quarter of Latin starting next school year, said Khan. 

Coming from the LD, returning students were taught how to manage their time well and to differentiate long-term projects from shorter ones. The MD is where skills of self-advocating and meeting with teachers are developed, Holly said. 

Some returning students from the LD are prepared to enter MD since their teachers have taught them how to maintain proper work habits. “I am used to being organized and getting my work done on time and if I have questions I meet with my teachers,” Tyler said. 

One of the biggest changes for students as they enter the MD is the freedom that they gain, Holly said. “I think particularly because of Covid these kids haven’t really even had the opportunity to move around much in the LD,” she said. 

Students look forward to this new independence they will have in the MD that they didn’t have in the LD. “I’m most excited about free periods,” James Au (5) said.

The MD also provides extracurricular activities that students can join to further explore topics that they are interested in. Tyler looks forward to the numerous clubs offered by the MD.

Khan views orientation as a community builder.

Students’ families, too, were glad to be on campus for the day. “The parents were back in school again — you could see how much they enjoyed it,” Khan said. 

Parents of fifth-graders found that the event was a great opportunity for them to meet and socialize as well.  “[I] connected with other parents, whom I personally haven’t seen since the pandemic began so that was a treat,” Alyssa Au said. 

Fifth graders and their parents share excitement about this transition into becoming part of the MD community. “[M]y child is starting his journey into a new chapter in his life,” Au said. She looks forward to the opportunities that MD will bring for her son, and the new relationships he will form as a result.