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Addressing Transitions and the End of the School Year

As we enter the last months of school, the minds and hearts of students quickly turn to summer and beyond. Spring fever hits, and we may feel it is impossible to direct student’s attention to learning. For those of us teaching students in the transition years, we are faced with yet an additional transition—as our students prepare to leave elementary, middle or high school and enter a wholly new environment. Intentionally working with these transitions in the school year and in the developmental arc of schooling supports students to stay present, anchor the learning of the year, and develop skills and capacities to navigate the inevitable changes in their lives. So how do we work with these potent and challenging transition times?

In this month’s blog, we offer a few ways to address transitions. Click on any topic for a full description of the approach.

Name and Normalize

Simply naming and recognizing that our students are going through a major transition opens up a space for dialogue and creativity. Students in transition years respond to impending changes in a whole variety of ways. Transitions can evoke agitation, excitement, impulsive behaviors, depression, and avoidance. When we normalize this whole range of feelings and responses, students realize they are not alone in their experience and are more able to constructively work with the emotions that naturally emerge.

Address Challenges and Opportunities

Give students an opportunity to write about, reflect upon, and share about the challenges and the opportunities of this shift to a new environment. 8th graders are often concerned about the trials and tribulations of high school, while seniors may be feeling terrified or elated about the next step to “independence”. By hearing each other and hearing from you, they can develop a greater sense of their own resources and resilience.

Teach About Goodbyes

When students are saying goodbye to one phase of life, they can often minimize, spoil, or undermine the shift. Healthy goodbyes involve honoring the gifts of the last phase of life. Give students an opportunity to look back over the school year or this phase of life and name what they have learned and how they have grown. Give them an opportunity to share highlights and positive memories from this phase of life, in writing and with one another.

Bring in Practices that Support Transitions

Community circles, reflective writing, solo or silent time outside can support students to more intentionally address their transitions— and to identify what they are ready to say goodbye to and what they wish to embrace as they move on. We can also invite students to consider how they have “stretched” themselves in the past to meet challenges and help them to name these inner capacities so they can draw on them now for this current shift.

Anchor the Learning

Whether or not your students are in a transition year-giving students to reflect an opportunity to reflect on their leaning goals and growth over the last year can help them anchor the learning more deeply.

Classroom Practices

The following questions or prompts can support students to more directly explore the transition they are in the midst of—through reflection, writing, community circles, focused listening practices, and art. (As with all of our work, please adapt the language for your particular age group and community.)

  1. What are you leaving behind? What aspects of yourself as a student and person do you no longer want to carry with you?
  2. What aspects of yourself do you want to bring with you, or grow, or expand, or reclaim as you move into this next phase of your life?
  3. What important events happened in this last period of your life? (i.e. 5th grade, high school, etc.).
  4. In what ways have you grown, and what have you learned?
  5. What opportunities for growth are there for you in this next phase?
  6. What concerns do you have about this next phase? How might you be stretched and tested?
  7. What qualities do you want to cultivate in yourself in this next phase? In other words, what kind of person do you want to be in this next phase of your life?
  8. What obstacles might get in the way of that?
  9. What resources do you have or need to have (inside yourself and in your family or community) that can help you overcome these obstacles?
  10. What commitments do you need to make to yourself and others to support this next phase of life?

See page 125 of our book, The 5 Dimensions of Engaged Teaching, for more on this important topic.

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  1. End of School Year Blues | The Educated Mom - June 7, 2014

    […] Weaver has a useful post on the PassageWorks Institute website, aptly titled, “Addressing Transitions and the End of the School […]

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