A lesson plan based on the story Private school guy by Marc Mouallem in the January-February 2005 issue of L.A. Youth.

By Libby Hartigan, Managing Editor

Grades: 6-12
Subjects: Language arts
Suggested time allowance: 45 min.-1 hr.

Overview of lesson plan: Students will develop strategies to cope more effectively with change.

Students will share experiences about coping with change while developing new skills to cope with big transitions.

Resources and materials:
— pens, paper
— copies of L.A. Youth Jan.-Feb. 2005 issue (one per student)
— blackboard or whiteboard

Write “Expectations” on the board. Ask your students if they have ever expected something to go badly, when in fact it went well.

Sometimes people shy away from trying something new because they’re afraid, or they think it might turn out badly. But something that’s new and different might turn out to be a good experience.
     The transition from junior high or middle school to high school is stressful for most students—they fear not having friends, not knowing the teachers and getting lost on an unfamiliar campus. But they end up meeting new people, and getting to know their teachers and campuses.

Reading. Have the students read Marc’s article on how he switched to a private school on pages 8-9 of the January-February 2005 issue of L.A. Youth.

Reading comprehension exercise:

Ask students to make a list identifying what Marc was nervous about before he attended the school.
—He thought it would be uptight.
—He thought the students would sit at their desks like silent statues.
—He thought there would be a lot of papers and tests.
—He thought the administration would be strict and harsh.
—He thought that students would never be able to fool around or have fun.
—He worried that he would not be able to make it at the new school.

Compared to his many fears, what did Marc actually find at the school?
—The first day, he made some friends on the school van.
—Art class went smoothly.
—His English teacher treated the students with respect.
—The dress code was not so bad.
—The dean turned out to be a nice guy.
—He felt comfortable participating in class discussions.
—No one called him a nerd for knowing the answer.
—He and his classmates sometimes joked around.
—He feels at home.

Did Marc’s fears come true? Compare and contrast what he thought the school would be like with what he found when he began attending the school.

Have your students ever tried something new? Did it turn out well, or badly? How well did the reality of the experience compare with their expectations?

Extension exercise:
Ask students to make a list of what they thought their school would be like before they attended. Now that they’re actually at the school, did the school meet their expectations? Is it better or worse than they anticipated?

They should be as specific as possible. Ask them to consider the school’s social atmosphere, academics, buildings, extracurriculars and school spirit.

Using their own list of observations of their likes and dislikes about their school, ask your students to write an essay in which they make a concrete suggestion about how to improve the school, if they had access to unlimited funds and could make any changes they wanted to.