Teaching Tuesday: Preparing Students to Transition to the Next Phase in Their Educational Careers

By Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick and Tracy Vasquez

kindergarten graduate in paper cap

As the academic school year concludes, it may be an opportune time to reflect on how educators and families prepare their students for continued learning as they move from one setting to another. This could occur at different times: Kindergarten to first grade, fifth grade to middle school or junior high school, eighth grade to high school or twelfth grade to college or a career. It is important for educators to be intentional with what they do to assist their students in transitioning to the next level of education. Here are a few strategies you can use to support your students as they move from one level to another.

Celebrate Accomplishments

Some schools hold promotional/graduation ceremonies or assemblies for students who have successfully completed various grades. Families and friends are invited to attend these events and recognize students for their academic achievements. They may be presented with a certificate or an award trophy that can be captured and promoted on social media. There may be a guest speaker who provides an inspirational message about all of the wonderful new learning adventures that they will embark on as they move ahead in their educational journey. Teachers may also take advantage of this opportunity to highlight the challenges that everyone addressed and overcame. This is especially important because students need to know that failure is not the end, that it can serve as a springboard to innovation and creativity.

Set Goals

To reach success at the next level of their journey, it may be beneficial for the students to reflect on their educational values. This will help them have a more meaningful and relevant educational experience. Teachers can have individual conferences with their students where they guide the conversation by asking questions such as:

  • What are you looking forward to the most in “x” grade?
  • What will you need in order to be successful?
  • Who will help you the most in making sure that you are successful?

Acknowledge Emotions

Students may be anxious about moving to the next level in their educational career. There may be some unknowns, such as:

  • What will my new learning environment look like?
  • How will I interact and engage with my peers?
  • Where will I eat lunch?
  • Do I have to take a shower in the locker room after physical education class?

To allay those concerns, some teachers invite their former students to serve as guest speakers to share stories on how they managed to deal with the various aspects of the transition. Another resource is the school’s guidance counselor, who can provide additional details and information for students and their families.

The idea of change may be uncomfortable. Keeping in mind that preparation is key, and that outfitting students with the skills and support for what lies ahead will help them manage the various aspects of change.

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