Minor incidents make first day typical

A couple of kids went missing, but were quickly found.

A couple more didn’t know which bus to take home, but a quick address check on the computer fixed the problem.

About a dozen of the 1,035 students didn’t follow dress code, but temporary outfits were made available so they could continue the day.

A lot of kids couldn’t open their lockers. Some went to the wrong class. Others couldn’t find the cafeteria.

All of these minor incidents made it a typical first day of school at Meridian Middle School.

Lisa Austin
Principal Lisa Austin helps a parent with questions about the school day.

“I wish I would have carried my pedometer today because I would have made 10,000 steps,” said principal Lisa Austin, who worked the hallways with a calm demeanor that comes from more than 20 years in teaching.

“Don’t know which bus to take? Here, she knows. Follow her and make a friend,” Austin told a frazzled 12-year-old.

Middle school is a life-changing experience for kids. It’s when they graduate from the comforts of one teacher to eight different classes, a locker combination to remember and an environment that promotes independence and responsibility.

That’s a lot to handle on the first day.

“It was hectic,” said teacher Carmen Uscola. “My students were functioning on different schedules and I was trying to help navigate who goes where. There is a lot of stress.”

First-year teacher Carlie Spence joined sixth-graders on their first day of middle school.

“A lot were afraid and more overwhelmed than I was,” she said.

Spence said she was happy to find many of her students like to read, which makes her English Language Arts class more palatable. “I’m so pumped for the year,” Spence said.

The best part of Spence’s first day was a “snowball fight.” Students wrote unique things about themselves, then wadded up the paper and threw it across the room. Students picked up a “snowball” to learn something new about a classmate.
“I found that one of my students speaks four languages while another can eat three Popsicles in an hour,” Spence said. “It was really special.”

Austin spent the day helping kids learn the school culture — be polite and respectful, and don’t wear hats in the hallway.

“I see a learning opportunity,” said Austin, as she dashed to talk to students about appropriate behavior.

Meridian Middle School improved in 2012-13, going from a two-star school to a three-star school in Idaho’s Five-Star School Rating system.

Based on the first day of the 2013-14 school year, Austin said her school is on the right track.

“It was a good day and I expect this to be a great year,” Austin said.

Click here to read more about Meridian Middle School.

Words on Carmen Uscola’s bulletin board for students to study.
Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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