Students get crash course in realities of high school

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Some eager students headed to high school for the first time in London already have a head start, with the new school year still days away.

Almost half of London’s Class of 2021 have a crash course about high school under their belts, after hitting the hallways for a special program — High School Here I Come — on what to expect in higher grades within the area’s public school board.

While it’s the 13th year the Thames Valley District school board has run the program, its purpose changes each year, said Paul MacGregor, a teacher at A.B. Lucas secondary school and the program’s supervisor.

“The same myths and perceptions of high school still exist. The only thing that changes is the means of the delivery,” he said.

Most students entering Grade 9 this year were born in 2003, just as the online world we know now — with Facebook, Twitter and ubiquitous smart phones — was beginning to unfold.

MacGregor said online tools like Facebook are becoming more prevalent in the classroom.

“Now, of course, we know you can use Facebook in the classroom. But you have to use it in a respectful, responsible way,” he said.

High School Here I Come also incorporates discussion about modern bullying.

“Bullying has gone on to involve cyber-bullying, so we address those aspects as well,” MacGregor said.

Jeremy Hammond was one of about 2,000 students participating in the four-day program.

“I went to a smaller school, so (H.B. Beal secondary school) is a big change. It’s good to do this to get to know it better, ask any questions, and just learn how to get around and basically just help with the big change,” Hammond said.

Each day of the program was planned to prepare students for a different aspect of high school life.

On one day, teachers schooled students on the misconceptions and false portrayals of high school in pop culture.

On another, they spoke to them about academic and behavioural expectations.

One day was devoted to organizational skills, and another brought a briefing about the benefits of getting involved in the school community.

The introduction also gives students a taste of academia.

“We do sort of trick students into doing some reading and writing and even some math,” said MacGregor.

“We do introduce them to the Grade 9 EQAO mandatory math test, which they’ll have to do later in the year, as a sort of heads-up and a thing to keep in mind. A lot of it is about lessening their anxiety,” he said.

Many schools enlist the help of senior students.

At H.B. Beal, members of the student council spoke to new Grade 9s about getting involved in school activities.

“It’s really nice to hear from (older students),” Hammond said.

“I really like the change, it’s going to be fun.”

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