At this time of year parents begin to think about how their child will handle the transition from one classroom to the next. Your child maybe transitioning from the toddler classroom to the primary classroom or maybe you have a child who is transitioning from high school to college. No matter when or where your child is transitioning from and to, not only does the child experience transitional anxiety but the parents do too. In order to help relieve some of the anxiety, I would like to share a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes that helps the children to have a graceful transitional experience from the toddler classroom to the primary classroom.
We are so fortunate to have a great collaborating body of staff members, which gives us the opportunity to communicate with children from other classes. The Primary student’s playground is adjacent to the toddler student’s playground. As we enter the playground with our students, most of the toddler students run to the fence to greet us as we enter our playground. As time goes on, soon the Toddlers are greeting us by name. I am always pleasantly surprised when I hear them say my name for the first time. Even though the toddlers may not be in our class yet, they become familiar with us through the fence, and I enjoy having short conversations with them.
When it is time for them to begin their transition from the toddler classroom to the primary classroom the transitioning student comes for a visit. Upon their arrival, the toddler is greeted by a least by one of the primary students (often a former toddler classmate) or a teacher. Sometimes the toddler student leaves her teacher behind to explore the classroom environment. Her eyes gleam with excitement as they reach for the practical life lessons and other lessons. Others students maybe a little cautious and squeeze their teacher’s finger tight. During this first time visit, they get to see what is going on in the primary classroom and from that experience they begin to prepare themselves mentally for their transition. It’s not long before they return and sometime that second visit completes their transition to their new classroom. You see, they have been waiting for this moment to come from the very first time they realize the “big kids” were coming to the big playground.
At the beginning of the new school year, the Primary teachers carefully prepare a “Stagger Start” list. This process benefits both primary and toddler classrooms. On the first day of school one third of the student attend their class, allowing the students to begin building the classroom dynamics with a smaller group. During this time the teachers introduces (or reintroduces) the learning environment to the students. The next day, another third of the students attend alone with the students who came on the first day. On the third day all the children attend school. With each entering group the teacher can spend small-group time or one-on-one time with the entering portion for that day. This process helps young children with their transition, and offers them better opportunities to get the attention they may need. As the school year progresses, of course, the students become at ease in their environment and can settle down to meaningful work.
We advertise six weeks of transitional discomfort before we see normalization in the class as a whole. But we’re giving ourselves some cushion; each child is different and in many cases children settle into a routine is just a few days, and the classroom can be called “normalized” well before the six-week mark. The closeness of the MSC family contributes to the success we enjoy in easing transitions from class to class.