Grade School Transitions can be Sunny, Cloudy, Stormy or Mostly Sunny!
September rolls around and many young children are either sad that their play, beach, or friend time just got sliced in half or they may be happy that their learning, new friend, or structured time has increased. Naturally there are those children who fall in between, yet the reality of school being the bulk of a child’s day is a critical time where many stakeholders’ actions as well as the child’s reactions and actions will create either a sunny or cloudy path.
The Sunny Side
Elementary learners, those between the ages of 7-11, have at least one year of schooling under the belt and have been oriented to a classroom setting and the structures that surround school life. Some of these structures include, how to speak with an inside voice, taking turns, raising your hand, knowing how to get out of the room in case a bathroom break is needed……and the list goes on. For many of these young veterans, their eyes open wider as new privileges, opportunities, and learning challenges greet them with their new grade level. Second graders are no longer the little ones, third graders will actually break out of their dependency mode and become more independent as the year goes on, fourth graders arrive independent and begin to explore learning at a deeper level, and many fifth graders if not already in a transition 4/5 school are yearning for the year to fly by so they are anointed with that middle school title to signify their tween status and that they soon will be even cooler than they already are as the oldest grade in school. Let the good times roll!
The Cloudy Side
For many children, the sun does not shine. Grade school transitioning is not a leap into learning, structure, or a status of independency. The reality of finding, maintaining, or walking away from “friendships” is a challenge, as is becoming comfortable with structure in environment and structure in learning and discovery. Children who feel these clouds are more likely to miss out on intellectual development, and certainly will need support to grow socially and emotionally. These second graders still are the little ones who may be shy, may have no siblings, have not had the chance to flourish in language, peer interaction, or have not broken away from a parent/guardian/caregiver. The soon to be independent third grader may have been held back a year and has not adjusted to being older than the other classmates. Our independent fourth graders may have a learning challenge which hinders the ability to read on grade level, or is a second language learner forced to learn everything in a foreign language known as English. Our eldest in the school, the beloved fifth grader, is a reluctant learner who is creative by nature, misunderstood by the teacher, and is intellectually gifted beyond his peers. Let it rain!
The Stormy Side
Regardless of how a child arrives at school with a sunny or cloudy disposition, there are always situations that young people may have to face through no fault of their own. The partly cloudy side is when grade school children try to learn while parents are going through a divorce, there is sickness within the family, an unexpected death, financial hardship, or when a child becomes a victim of a prejudice at the hands of a bully who is not stopped by the educators in the system. Make it stop or Lend a heart!
The Mostly Sunny Side:
The reality is every child in grade school will walk and grow through all kinds of weather; some days will begin with sunshine and end up raining, while other days will begin cloudy, hit a few storms, and end up with a rainbow bonus before the end of the day. Every moment has its potential to be something positive or negative, and how a child, teacher, and classmates interact will determine the conditions. Grade school transitions work when every parent/guardian, and child take an active role in describing the weather conditions of their environment on a daily or weekly basis. What does a cloudy day look like and how can those clouds get chased away – maybe it’s a conversation with a teacher, or a parent of another child who may be related to some friction that is occurring, or an understanding of the child on how he or she is internalizing the environment. What does a sunny day look like, what is working and happening that can be sustained and who needs to know that something is working in a great way – tell that teacher, or friend, or understand the positive actions the child is taking and talk about those strengths. Keep the sun shining! Finally, storms do come but as has been translated from Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching –
“In all of nature; no storm lasts forever.”
Grade school children can grasp the understanding of a storm not lasting forever and if they are communicated with and taught the skills and strategies on how to minimize the storm damage their transition to any grade or life situation will bring them more Sunshine than clouds.