This week marks the beginning of the 2011/2012 school year. For many students a new school year brings with it both excitement and apprehension. If the return to school includes changing schools, such as for those students moving from elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, or high school to post secondary, apprehension can outweigh excitement. Transitioning to new schools becomes even more complex when it is combined with changes brought about by puberty, social development, and the demand for increasingly difficult cognitive tasks. Elias (2001) suggested that changing schools is a major source of stress during the developmental process and it is therefore important for school counsellors to have an awareness of the developmental needs of the age groups that they serve, as well as an understanding of the psychosocial tasks and skills necessary to make these transitions successful.
Although transitions can be difficult, they can also create opportunities to learn and practice coping and adaptation skills that will be necessary throughout life. Common worries that arise during transitions can include figuring out the logistics of the new building and routine, increased academic demands, understanding how to deal with conflict between authority figures and other students, and navigating peer relationships. Elias suggests that the role of the school in the transition process should be to maintain a focus on the developmental strengths and assets of students. It is suggested that this focus should include the A, B, and 3Cs: Appreciation, Belonging, Confidence, Competencies, and Contributions (Elias, 2001).
The following are a list of suggestions as to how schools can help ease the transition process.
Adapted from Elias, Tobias, and Friedlander. Raising Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers, 2000
- Respect students’ need for physical outlets
- Provide outlets for students’ creativity
- Offer students opportunities to help set rules
- Establish clear expectations about truancy, substance abuse, and violent behaviour
- Give students opportunities for setting and reviewing personal norms, standards, and academic goals
- Encourage students to become members of school related groups
- Encourage students to recognize their personal strengths
- Help students make realistic academic plans
- Encourage persistence in achieving goals despite set backs
- Give students opportunities to develop effective group participation and interpersonal skills, including negotiation and teamwork skills
- Help students find avenues for contributing to their classrooms and schools through school and community service, volunteer work, and mentorship programs
Elias, M. 2001. Easing Transitions with Social-Emotional Learning. Principal Leadership, 1, 10-18.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA