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Actually Going to Secondary School

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

You must be very excited to finally go to secondary school. You are not quite a child now, but not really an adult either. You are a youth. Most people will be somewhat nervous about this great change in their life. Your parents and teachers told you that it is going to be fine, but is it? Here is some real advice for you.

When I first went to secondary school, I had trouble finding my way around. I couldn't just follow my classmates, because we all went to different classes at different times. The school was huge, much larger than most HK schools. It was very old and had many extensions, so the floors did not always connect. (The original building was gone, there were old lost pieces, like the army’s rooms, coal bins, dumb waiters, etc.) So it was difficult to find where everything was. I walked around the place and studied it. Yours will not be so tough, but don’t assume that it will be simple. Walk around the whole school, walk through every floor and every stairwell and make a map in your head.

Will you stay in the same room? In many secondary schools you stay in one classroom and the teachers come to you; that is similar to your primary school, so no problem. In others you move from classroom to classroom. So remember not to leave your things behind. You may not even have the same classmates in different lessons. You need to plan your day. Make an extra copy of your schedule, keep it with you and add notes. Plan each day and know what books you need to have with you. You do not want to be that first-year-student who gets lost in the corridors, after recess, not knowing which room to go to or where it is.

What is your homework? Your class teacher will not know what homework you need to do in other classes. In your notebook or school handbook you will need to write down what homework each teacher has given you. If you don’t write it down it is too easy to forget what you were told. No one will be reminding you. You are a youth, not a child. It is not your teacher or mother’s fault if she did not remind you what homework you had to do. It is your responsibility.

You need to be more self-disciplined. Suddenly you are a youth, getting to school on time, showering, cutting your nails, doing your school work and homework is your responsibility. It is not up to your parents to make sure that you do it. Secondary schools are much quicker to fail a student and make them repeat a year. They will not treat you like a baby; it is up to you to learn the material or fail. Students who are late too often might even be told to leave and go to a bad school instead.

How do you make new friends? Do not try to pretend to be something that you are not. Don’t show off. Join activities you like and meet people with similar interests. Smile and be friendly. You may be seated with different children in different subjects. This is a good chance to meet even more people and make more new friendships. There also are more names to learn. You might need to take notes. It will take some time to get to know these new classmates, let alone become friends. So be patient.

Many people lose the friends that they had in primary school. I am not in contact with any of mine. (I have stayed in touch with friends from university, even if they are in Canada and I am in Hong Kong) If you want to stay friends, use modern communication and send emails, TikTok videos or phone messages to each other regularly.

Talk to other people who’ve already been to the same secondary school, such as neighbours or older brothers and sisters to get their opinion. Make sure you ask lots of questions. Be aware that in Hong Kong many secondary schools are very different, so not everything is about your school. Read the school’s website, handbooks and pamphlets. (Understand that they want to seem to be the best and will only tell you good things.) If you know more, the place will not seem as ominous.

Prepare for your new adventure and it will be easier. This will be a big change, but not as difficult as others ahead of you in life. There are changes in life, choosing your subjects in senior secondary school, the HKDSE, getting a job, going to university overseas, getting married, having children getting old... Finishing primary 6 and finding your way around a secondary school is one big step of many.


Author: Patrick Cummings


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