PREPARING CHILDREN FOR THE NEXT STAGE OF EDUCATION
If your children recently graduated from elementary school, middle school, perhaps even just their old grade level—you’re both probably looking toward the next term with some anxiety. Will the kids be able to handle new peers, new teachers, new ways of doing things? Will teachers and administrators expect too much?
For good or ill, stress is inevitable with any major change. “Fight or flight” instinct kicks in, signaling “unfamiliar situation = possible threat.” For those who know what to do and/or are confident in their ability to cope, the increase in strength and alertness is an advantage. For those whose first reaction is bewilderment, the energy boost, seeking somewhere to go, channels into imagining worst-case scenarios.
Here’s how to help kids prepare for the next level in calmness and confidence.
Don’t let your child’s imagination—or your own—run wild. She could get lost in a corridor, but there’s no record of any student wandering for weeks and starving to death. He might miss some answers on his first assignment, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be branded the dumbest kid in school. Know that all likely problems are survivable, and you’ll start off with less panic and greater confidence.
Know What They’ll Need to Know
Another confidence booster: turning the uncertain into the understood. Request an advance summary of next-level curricula. If your child will be in a new school building, scout the neighborhood and route. If classes will be virtual, test the network connection. Meet your child’s soon-to-be teacher(s)—and some classmates-to-be—ahead of time if possible. (You might even start a social media group.)
Know How to Handle Long Breaks
While concerns about “summer setback”—students on break forgetting what they learned last year—are legitimate, extra “recharge” time is good for the brain more often than not. In some countries, it’s customary for even adults to take a couple of months off every year, and progress doesn’t collapse.
Your family should, however, plan on a catch-up review before school starts. Consider saving copies of last term’s final-exam questions, and look up topics to be introduced in the new term. Rather than making “pre-term review” a boring rote drill, turn it into a trivia game, a family reading session, or a field trip.
How Teachers Can Help
If you’re the teacher preparing to welcome a new class of students:
- Create a newsletter for the last few weeks of break, filling families in on your plans for the coming term and what students will need to know.
- Make the newsletter a good read: include relevant games and “fun facts,” and show your human side through personal anecdotes.
- Encourage families—not least the kids themselves—to send you their own ideas and questions.
- Purge your mind of “they’d better know this or that” and “I won’t stand for laziness” thoughts. However well prepared, most kids still struggle with the transition. They’ll adjust faster if you stay patient and understanding.
- Be personally confident that this will work out for everyone. Your optimistic attitude will prove contagious, helping kids stop worrying about new challenges and start looking forward to new experiences!