By Jane Meredith Adams
Of all the middle school anxieties facing 5th-graders at Argonne Elementary School in San Francisco last spring, the most tangible was a round-faced combination lock.
Elementary school, a land of cubbies and coat hooks, soon would be in the past for these 11- and 12-year-olds, who practiced spinning the dials right-left-right in a Transition to Middle School workshop. Middle school would mean a metal locker with a lock to open, fast, at the risk of floundering in the hall and being late to class.
Fear of being publicly embarrassed or even physically hurt is widespread among students who are entering middle school, according to research studies, including a 2015 survey that ranked 225 5th-graders’ top concerns: getting undressed in front of others for physical education class, coping with peer pressure, dealing with bullying and opening a combination lock.