View Full Version : First Day at Junior High

08-22-2008, 05:23 PM
OK, I'm working on something that revolves around a kid moving up to Junior High.

I'm from England, so my experience is gonna be different. I can relate to the experience, the emotional aspect, all the internal stuff, but I have no idea of the specifics.

Now I know that schools will have different policies and set-ups, but anything anyone can offer will be of great use.

Different bus to ride?
What was the breakdown of the day?
Did you get a locker?
Did you actually do classes that day?

Thanks in advance.

08-22-2008, 06:10 PM
I don't think they call it junior High anymore- at least not where I live. My son is going into the sixth grade this year- That was the first year of JHS when I was that age, but now they call it Middle School. Grades 6-7-8 are middle School, while 10-11-12 are considered high school- at least here in Pa.

But to answer your questions;

Yes he has a different bus to ride, but all his friends from fifth grade will be there. New building, a locker, and yes they have classes the very first day and I am told to expect homework as well the first day. I don't have his class schedule so I can't help you with the breakdown of the day. He starts on Monday the 25th, so if you haven't recieved any answers by then I'll let you know.

He is nervous and excited at the same time. we live out in the country so the bus ride is an hour and a half long one way! his Elementry school was only six miles from our house, so he has to get up almost an hour earlier this year- he is NOT looking forward to that!

08-22-2008, 07:13 PM

The piece is set in the mid-80s, so current info, while useful, isn't a specific need.

08-22-2008, 08:00 PM
Whether it's called "middle school" or "junior high" depends on the location. Names for the schools vary from one town to another, different regions and different states.

My daughters started 7th grade this week. They are in the last year of Middle School locally. Their cousin in another part of the state, same age, just began middle school. Another cousin less than fifty miles away, one year older, started "junior high" last year.

08-22-2008, 08:23 PM
Also, in Jr. High, we started traveling to the the classrooms for specific subjects and teachers, instead of one teacher in one room all day for all the subjects.

We were overcrowded so as the youngest class we got to share lockers, whereas the upperclassmen got their own.

Also had to get up earlier than when I was in elementary school.

08-22-2008, 08:27 PM
Yeah, the bus came at a different time than in elementary school.

Instead of having a locker next to your home room, there was a massive labyrinth (so it seemed) of lockers down in the atrium, you had to find your locker, work your combination, shoulder to shoulder with kids you've never seen before (several elementary schools dumped into my middle school) and then try to cram all your supplies in there.

Then you had to wait in the lunch area, until the bell sounded, and everyone rose to their feet en masse and surged up the stairs to their homeroom, which you had to find for the first time ever. Once you got there, you were confronted by a whole bunch of really ugly students. Maybe it was just my homeroom, but they were pretty damn ugly. And frightening, because they were bigger than me.

Home room would last 15 pointless minutes, and then once again the bell would sound and everyone surged into the hallway. You had to find your next class, fighting against the throng. The whole day was regimented by bells (there were only a few bells in elementary school, one for start of class, one for recess, one for return from recess, and one for the end of the day. In middle school, there were like three per hour, each one signalling the beginning or end of a mad rush through packed hallways)

Each new class you would recieve a textbook, but you would be afraid to go down into the labyrinth of lockers to drop them off because you might miss the bell. So you would walk through the school carrying a stack of books. Older students would delight in slapping the top of your pile of books, causing you to drop them. When you bent to pick them up, other students would bump into you and swear at you, as you caused a massive snarl in the packed hallway.

There seemed to be no logic to the layout of the school. You'd have to traverse the school several times during the day, alternating between windowless, interior rooms, to overheated exterior rooms. There was no place to go for quiet; even the library was just a platform with packed hallways on all sides, overlooking the clamorous labyrinth of lockers.

Needless to say, I did not enjoy my first day of middle school, or any day of it. I still remember quite vividly after nearly 20 years. It was in middle school that I began having my first day of school nightmares. Even when I was in college, working on my masters degree, the night before the first day of classes, I would relive my first day of middle school, with all the additional anxieties of high school and college piled on top of them. I wonder if I will have them again if I go back for a PhD.

Kitty Pryde
08-22-2008, 08:32 PM
Definitely a different bus. Definitely get a locker, which you might have to share with a random kid. Things that stand out from my starting middle school experience. The school is HUGE compared to grade school! And you have to be able to find like 10 different rooms, even though all the hallways look the same. Most middle schools have different schedules on different days-one for mon/wed and another for tue/thur, friday alternates between schedule a and schedule b each week.
homeroom is really key-just 20 minutes a day for a teacher to make sure the kids aren't coming unglued, give them announcements, etc. one middle school i attended had homeroom first thing in the morning, another did it midafternoon.
on the first day the kids have to make it to all their classes-they probably registered for them ahead of time. they probably get a schedule of the day and a map of classroom locations in first period. teachers will expect plenty of kids to be late in every class because the kids are so bewildered and lost. Most classes will do an intro to the subject and expectations/requirements. if there is gym, the kids probably won't have to dress down. if there is band class, they probably won't bring their instruments.
Some middle schools start only the 6th graders on the first day, and the 7th and 8th graders don't come until the second day, to make things less horrifying for the little ones.

08-22-2008, 08:42 PM
Thats a great idea, too bad my school didn't do that...back in '88

08-22-2008, 09:44 PM
I went to Junior High School in the early 80's. I didn't take a different bus because Elementary, Jr. High and High School were all on the same campus; but in more populated areas they would probably be different. Junior High was grades 7 and 8; modern Middle School is 6, 7 and 8. The schedule was very different because you had a different class and teacher each hour of the day; in 6th grade you had one teacher except for various special subjects.

Yes, I did get a locker, that was my first locker because before then you put your stuff in your desk in your home room.

Yes, we did go to all the classes in our schedule on the first day.

08-22-2008, 10:05 PM
Where (as in what US state and city/town) does your character live? That would be key to determining whether they had junior high (as opposed to middle school) in the era in which your story is set.

My experience in the late 1970s: My rural Massachusetts town had a regional junior/senior high school that brought together students from five towns, each of which had its own elementary school. So it was a huge change--some students spent 45 minutes or more on the bus getting to school.

In my school, the junior high homerooms and lockers, and most of the junior high classrooms, were in a separate wing. We had classes on the first day, but the homeroom period (the first thing in the school day, where attendance is taken and announcements are made) was longer so that we could get our locker assignments and other first-day-of-school information.

I wore a gray skirt and a raspberry-colored sweater with matching knee socks. Oh, 1970s, your fashion was so nerdy!

08-22-2008, 11:10 PM
Totally fictional local based in the US. All made-up so I can do what I want to some degree, just need to base it on reality.

08-22-2008, 11:26 PM
Hey wordmonkey, I went to middle-school in the early 80's. Middle-school meant a longer walk by about 10 blocks. It was grades 6, 7, 8 and a mixture of kids from several elementary schools. Which meant a lot of fights in the first week. Kids from my elementary school were coming from one gang neighborhood and many had older brothers and sisters in one gang, and kids from other elementary schools and neighborhoods were the same. Even after the first week, we always traveled in packs whenever we could and fortunately most of us (from my neighborhood) had at least 2 or 3 people in the same classes.

Even more fortunately, this was long before school shootings, but occasionally I saw a knife come out a time or two.

We went to our homerooms and got our lockers the first day. The rest of the classes were mostly orientation and getting an overview of the course and introduction of students. No work or homework on the first day.

EDIT to add: The time was also the beginnings of breakdancing, which did take place in school and probably prevented far more fights than there could have been, and early rap. If your story takes place in the city and you want to pick my brain for anything I might remember, please feel free to PM me. Good luck.

Tish Davidson
08-23-2008, 12:49 AM
I went to a combined junior-senior high school. The students from 7-12 were all in the same building, but for assemblies and dances we were separated 7-9 and 10-12. We shared lockers all through school. No bus - I walked about a mile each way. It was so chaotic the first day that I got a terrible headache and threw up in the hall (talk about mortifying!). You can hardly go wrong on your school set-up because there are so many different configurations based on local preferences. K-5, 6-8, 9-12 and K-6, 7-8, 9-12 are the most common but some smaller schools are K-8 and 9-12.

08-23-2008, 12:59 AM
OK, I'm working on something that revolves around a kid moving up to Junior High.

I'm from England, so my experience is gonna be different. I can relate to the experience, the emotional aspect, all the internal stuff, but I have no idea of the specifics.

Now I know that schools will have different policies and set-ups, but anything anyone can offer will be of great use.

Different bus to ride?
What was the breakdown of the day?
Did you get a locker?
Did you actually do classes that day?

Thanks in advance.

I went to Junior High in the 80s and I grew up in the Midwest. Jr High was 7-8th graders. We did have a different bus (in fact, I never took a bus in elementary school). We were assigned lockers and locker partners (also a first). We didn't have homerooms -- your first class was your homeroom, whether that be English or Math or whatever. I don't think we had real classes that first day, but we did go to each and every class on our schedule, where the teacher gave us a syllabus and talked about what we would be learning.

I remember feeling very, very small even though the 8th graders weren't much older. They seemed much more sophisticated.

Harper K
08-23-2008, 01:34 AM
We have middle schools around here (Atlanta) rather than junior highs. They're for grades 6 - 8. They switched over from the name "junior high" in the mid-80s, when this whole "team learning" concept came into play. At my middle school in the early '90s, there were four teams for each grade -- the A team, the B team, the C team, and the D team -- and kids switched classes only within that team. You'd have your electives with kids from throughout your grade (electives being gym, art, music, etc.), but your core academic classes would only be with your teammates. So everyone on the team would have the same math teacher, the same English teacher, and so on. Two exceptions to this were the special ed kids and the gifted kids. I had a couple of gifted classes, so I got to walk all the way across the school and out to a portable classroom (read: trailer!) where gifted kids from several teams took classes together. It was a small but welcome amount of freedom in a place that otherwise felt too much like an elementary school.

We did have lockers. They were right near our homeroom. They were a terrible shade of orange. Orange wasn't even one of the school colors, so I don't know what they were thinking. We definitely got a locker on the first day of school.

I think the first day was more like an orientation day than a real class day. There was always a long assembly in the gym where the principal and vice-principals spoke. They reminded everyone of school rules, went over the dress code, talked about academic expectations, and so on. Then, you'd go around with your homeroom class to meet the other teachers on the team, and there'd be a brief overview of what the class would be like that year. Then I went for a gifted class orientation. There was a lot of hand-holding over the first few days. Electives didn't start up until the end of the week.

I rode a different bus from the elementary kids and the high school kids, though some bus routes picked up both middle and high school (if the route wasn't too crowded, I guess). Riding the school bus with a bunch of middle schoolers, by the way? Traumatizing. I remember on the first day, I was saving a seat for my best friend from elementary school. She got on the bus, took one look at me, and kept walking down the aisle of the bus. It only got worse after that. Sometimes I would miss the bus on purpose so that my dad would have to take me to school. Nearly everyone on the bus had their day of ridicule at some point; no one was safe.

On the first day of 6th grade, I wore a black t-shirt, a skirt with black and white stars on it, and black Sam and Libby ballet flats. Most of the girls were getting into name-brand fashion around that time. Lots of shirts with Guess? Jeans and GAP plastered across the front. 6th grade was the first year I remember feeling a lot of pressure to have the "right" clothes. Even when you brought a project to school, it was uncool to bring it in a regular plastic bag or grocery bag -- you had to bring it in a shopping bag from whatever mall store was trendy at the moment.

Oh, middle school. I'm so glad you ended 15 years ago.

08-23-2008, 01:59 AM
I went to Jr. High in the early 80s in So. California. Is your setting a public or private school? I went to a parochial school (Lutheran) -- it was smaller, no buses. (This was after public elementary school -- had to switch from public after that, the neighborhood was way too violent -- lots of knives around town -- but I don't remember any buses there either).

So the classes were also smaller -- our lockers were perfectly square (not like the tall ones we got in HS). I remember the first day as getting our books (and instructions to immediately cover them with homemade brown paper bag book covers).

I remember having a pencil box and yellow Pee Chee folders. We didn't wear backpacks then, just lugged our books from class to class.

08-23-2008, 07:53 PM
Totally fictional local based in the US. All made-up so I can do what I want to some degree, just need to base it on reality.

In what state, though? There's usually some degree of homogeneity within a state about this stuff.

08-23-2008, 10:03 PM
I went to junior high at 7th grade (just coming out of grammar school and would hit high school at 9th). No lockers; school was too small for that. Keep in mind that my junior high was different than most in that it had a pre-school, kindergarten, grammar school (1-6), and a junior high, each with its own area.

We had separate classes, with bulletins read in the first class as needed. It was also our first encounter with changing and showers; fortunately it was just 7th/8th graders. The buses were slightly different, but kids could ride the same buses.

Also, if it's of interest, when I was in 8th grade, the local high schools banned hazing, so I didn't have to suffer through that (apparently that year's seniors had been really nasty to the incoming freshmen).

If it helps...