Emily Musters has just started year 8. She shares some of the things she’s learned during the last year of being in secondary school
As I finished year 7 only a few months ago, I know how daunting it feels to step into a whole new world of fun, stress and growth. So I hope what I share here will help to make it less of a worry and more of a joy for anyone moving up to secondary school this week.
First of all, everyone knows about the difference in size. Not only is secondary school so much bigger, but also the teachers expect you to move rooms hourly!
Finding your way around
As a new student who doesn’t know the shortcuts or the unhelpfully numbered extensions, navigating school can be tough. For example, my form room was number 208. My timetable told me that my first lesson was in 200A. Excellent! Just round the corner – or so I thought. What I didn’t know was that 200A was at the very top of a brand new building on the other side of the school. I had to go across the grounds and up and down countless staircases. It was also raining. By the time I found a map, the teacher was already handing out everything we would need in his class and introducing the lesson.
Here are my tips to ensure you don’t turn up to your first lesson halfway through: if a lesson is after break or registration, start travelling before the bell. You’ll have much more time to find your way and the corridors will be uncrowded.
Also, go in groups. This means that you couldn’t possibly arrive at a lesson that had already begun, because the whole class would be late together! Suggest that each person learns the route to a couple of lessons, then together you’ll know how to get everywhere.
A fun idea is to explore at lunch. Make a list of places you can’t locate and go wild! My friends and I enjoyed seeing which team could tick it all off first. It made us much more confident and I now know the school incredibly well.
My final tip is to try multiple routes to your classes. Some may be faster or include places you’d want to stop off at sometimes.
Clubs and fun stuff
Now, clubs. To start with, Christian Union. I don’t have the words to describe how much finding it changed my life. I was the youngest, but I discovered funny, kind, genuinely sweet people with whom I could share all of my worries, doubts and annoying puns.
I met some influential students who ran other clubs too, which helped me become more confident at school. I made excellent friends who continue to build me up.
In a setting where people might challenge my faith or try to change it, I now have a place where my belief can be strengthened.
I was anxious to find the CU because I knew I needed a positive influence at such a vital stage in my growth. This leads me onto my next suggestion, which is waiting.
There are so many ways to advertise clubs at my school, and I had no idea which information was old and which was new. I followed five sets of directions in September looking for CU, only to find that it would start in November.
Clubs are excellent for making friends and pursuing interests and we are all urged to join, but I advise checking multiple sources, asking around, seeing who else wants to go and carefully ensuring you aren’t double-booked. Not only will you be more organised and have friends to go with, but also pacing yourself will give time for new dates and rooms to be confirmed.
Then, go ahead! Clubs really did make new friendships for me, and taught me new things about myself too.
Don’t sweat it
Finally, take risks and don’t leave room for stress. Easier said than done, I know, but less challenging when you know how.
I was scared of being alone and equally scared of homework. I was terrified of a heavy workload and classmates being more intelligent than me.
However, I found that teachers are human beings, and do give you a chance to settle in. I received manageable homework and soon realised everyone else was starting friendships from scratch too.
I found it easier to connect with my peers than I’d expected. When you are somewhere new, it’s really important to do what you love and be brave. I signed up for loads of competitions and extra courses; my fun and enthusiasm left me feeling excited rather than anxious.
I couldn’t dwell on worries: I was too busy making cakes, singing, dancing, painting and decorating rooms!
Secondary school really is an opportunity, not an obstacle, and you will find your feet much more quickly than you probably think at the moment.