As we near the end of the school year our students will begin the process of transitioning to new environments; whether it be from Junior School to Senior School, transitioning to a new year level or to life beyond Camberwell Girls. For most students this is a natural progression however for some this may be a little more daunting.
This week Paula Kolivas, one of our School Counsellors, has written the article below offering ways in which families can navigate this process. At Camberwell Girls we are fortunate to have caring and supportive staff to assist in this process, so if you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact our Counsellors or Heads of School – Mrs Cathy Poyser and Mr Paul Donohue.
During this past month, my family has been preparing to move out of our home and put our house on the market. We have been sifting through old toys, transporting bags of clothes to the local opp shop and sorting cupboards full of forgotten stuff. I was heard on many occasions saying to one of my kids or husband, “Be Ruthless! If it hasn’t been used in the last year, Bin it!” However, I found myself being less ruthless and struggling to dispose of many objects that had not been touched in years but had sentimental value.
Leaving the home that Tom and I purchased, as graduates, 26 years ago, the home we brought our 3 children to after their birth, and the home where our neighbours pop in for a cup a tea has actually been very difficult. I was aware that moving house was going to be stressful, but I have been quite shocked at the level of physical and emotional exhaustion it has created. This last week, my two younger children, on separate occasions, have both been in tears and asking to go back to the old house, with all their old things. Even though they are able to rationalise that we have moved to a ‘bigger and better’ place, they have been impacted by the change in their routine, the change in their environment and missing the familiarity of the past. It occurred to me that despite all the discussion and preparation for the move, despite their excitement about the new house and despite all the improvements, they were still grieving and progressing through their transition from old to new. This transition process is universal and impacts us throughout our lives each time change occurs.
For instance, at Camberwell Girls this month we are very focused on transition. It’s the time of the year where our 2017 students are being introduced to their new school environment. Foundation students and Year 7 students have their formal orientation programs, Year 10 students are moving into the VCE world, Year 11 students are completing exams and being briefed about Year 12 and our current Year 12 girls are finishing off their exam period and thinking about life after high school. Some girls are prepared and ready for the forthcoming changes, but some girls will need encouragement and reassurance that they are capable of facing the new challenges ahead.
Transition is a period of change and adjustment that has a beginning, middle and an end. It starts with a stage of anticipation and preparation. During this stage, students receive information about the forthcoming changes and lots of discussion occurs. This stage is followed with the arrival of their actual experience in the new setting where the student will become an active participant in the process, experiencing the changes and making connections with their new physical, social and emotional environment. Finally the transition process comes to a period of consolidation where students will develop a good sense of where they belong and how they can navigate the environment. How each student deals with this process depends on their personal situation and their stage of development and maturity.
However, despite student and parent anxiety, the average student rises to the occasion and successfully steers from kinder to primary school, from primary to secondary education and from childhood to adulthood. Students tap into their personal resources, their character strengths and with adult support are able to overcome hurdles and progress along their educational journey.
When thinking about students and their educational transition, we can direct our thinking to three broad areas of change and development – procedural, academic and social/emotional.
The procedural changes are the practical things that can cause stress but are usually easily overcome. These include developing an understanding of the timetable, the bell times, the school layout, the jargon, figuring out how to use the locker combination and where the closest bathrooms are located. Basically, the solution to these dilemmas can be read and memorised from a rule-book or manual. Within the first couple of weeks, students have adjusted to these changes with the support of their teachers and classmates and can then focus their attention on other challenges.
Academic expectations can appear daunting to many students. Irrespective of whether you are a Foundation student learning the basic phonetics for early reading or a Year 12 students learning physics formulas, students need to adjust to different academic demands throughout their educational life. The academic challenge for all students across the school is to develop into independent learners who can establish a balance between school, home and recreation. This may not be achieved easily and many students will continue their development in this area into their VCE years and beyond.
Settling into a new year level can be a very emotional time for students and parents. Students are adjusting to all the new elements of their lives – new teachers, new classmates and new friends. They are also juggling issues of identity, belonging and self-confidence at a time when they are trying to navigate their new environment. These emotions can be both positive such as excitement and anticipation as well as worrying like stress, anxiety and grief. It is very common for students to return home after school both physically and emotionally exhausted in the first few weeks of a new year. Parents need to be prepared for this and combat it with patience and understanding and the knowledge that this period will pass.
A successful educational transition is not left to chance at Camberwell Girls. A lot of reflection and work goes into how we are going to facilitate and support all our students through this process. Apart from the formal orientation programs, there is activity happening behind the scene with contemplation on class groupings, teacher selection, the pastoral care program and managing individual differences. All this is done to ensure a smooth and effective transition.
As parents, we can also support this transition process by having open conversations with our children about the changes ahead, rehearse conversation ‘starters’ with to help them make new friends, invite new class mates to our home, maintain old friendships, and encourage our kids to become involved in the House system and the extra-curriculum activities. But most importantly, we must express our belief that they will be able to identify and manage the challenges ahead. A positive mindset goes a long way to building self-confidence that a student is able to successfully complete any transition process. I know that my kids will settle into their new home and the sadness expressed last week is part of their transition journey. They will deal with this change and be ready to face the next one around the corner.
We are lucky to have great staff at Camberwell Girls who ‘Educate Tomorrow’s Woman’ and acknowledge that education is not only derived from books and examinations, but also from the successful navigation of a their social and emotional development. We are pleased to be sharing this journey with your daughters and look forward to witnessing and supporting their 2017 experience.
Further reading – www.education.vic.gov.au/childhood/parents/transition