The 3-2-1 of middle school Transition

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I will be taking on the role of IB Middle Years Programme (for 11 to 16 years) Coordinator starting this academic term. I have been the IB Diploma Programme (for 16 to 19 years) Coordinator for a long time now, so this is a big transition for me. Taking about transition, my first goal is to put together a transition programme for primary students coming into secondary school. While I am planning for the two weeks of transition, I made a list of transition tips for parents, teachers and students. It is necessary to include parents as it is an equally challenging transition for parents as it is for the students. To keep it simple I will follow a 3-2-1 strategy.

Three Tips for Students

Be organized: The most significant survival skill in middle school is self-management. There is no time for procrastination. Make sure you have a calendar, have a plan and stick to it. Use technology to keep on top of things, like setting up notifications on the calendar for important deadlines, saving homework on the cloud for easy access, and putting reminders on the alarm function of your phone to complete homework or tasks. These simple strategies will ease your transition phase.

Be vocal: Communication is key when you are experiencing issues related to change. Talk to parents, friends, and teachers to communicate your challenges and seek advice. Voice your anxieties and apprehensions; you will realize many of your peers are in the same boat and your parents/teachers have also been in the same boat once in their lives. Hence they will understand your situation and can help. Use technology for effective communication, learn to write formal emails to teachers; establish chat boundaries on social media apps, for example, do not feel the pressure to respond to messages immediately; and ask questions if you have a concern for example if you need more time to complete an assignment ask for it.

Be social: Middle school is a lot of fun as you will start to experience the freedom of choice and voice. With freedom comes responsibility, therefore learn to manage responsibilities by participating in activities outside the classroom. Play sports, join music or art clubs, have fun and make friends. By being social you will get rid of task-related stress, and you will learn to be a team player. You will understand other people’s perspectives and develop an open-minded approach towards problem-solving. Be bright, be social, be happy!

Two Tips for Parents

Be a friend: Take a deep breath, stop being a parent who only reinforces rules, try to be a friend to your child who supports, understands and helps during challenging times. Remember most children hit puberty during their middle school years, they not only deal with environmental change but also physical and emotional changes. This is the time to be a friend, philosopher and guide to your child, take off your rigid parenting hat and don a friendly one to reassure your child that they have a friend in you. This will help your child to develop the confidence to share any issues or challenges they face during transition.

Be involved: Take time every day to know more about your child’s day in school. A strategy that has worked very well with me is to ask my son to go through his timetable for the day and tell me what happened in each lesson. This way I get to know my son a lot more and he gets to share details of his school life while developing trust and a bond of understanding. Be involved in your child’s life in school and outside school. Participate in school activities, communicate regularly with teachers, be present when needed. Research shows that children whose parents are actively involved with the school, perform better in school.

One Tip for Teachers

Be present: A primary student has constant attention from their classroom teacher, but this changes in secondary. Many students have reflected negatively about their transition to secondary school citing reasons such as teachers not being friendly or attentive to their needs. In today’s context teachers might not be physically present in the classroom true but teachers need to make their presence felt by being engaged, caring and interested in solving student issues, academic and non-academic. This means, as teachers, we need to be there for the student’s academic, social, psychological and cognitive needs. Being ignored by the teacher is the most negative emotion a student experiences leading to multiple behaviour issues. Hence teachers please be present and present the best version of yourself. You are the catalyst of a magical reaction that happens in the middles years and shapes the future of a child.

Therefore I think of transition as a 3-2-1 process with key stakeholders playing their role in putting together a happy and meaningful middle school experience.

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