It’s that time of year where teachers start looking through their eyelids at you when you mention ‘scheduling a meeting’ or ‘arranging a day to….’
This is because it’s crazy. There isn’t a day, or a time, or even a moment to even think about the balls we feel we’re perpetually dropping. The calendars keep shifting and morphing and time melts away quicker than ever. It is… the Summer Term! Eurrggghh.
Despite the general business and urgency of Summer Term, it’s emotionally fuelled too. Incredibly emotionally fuelled. We are preparing reports and visits for the little ones we have educated and nurtured as much as we are able, and now times up. Hand them over perfectly ready for the next stage in their education.
Except, it isn’t just us, is it? The parents feel exactly the same anxiety and uncertainty in the next step. Be it, just starting Nursery or Primary school, or even Secondary School.
I appreciate, of course, that the children are the centre of this transition, full of excitement and maybe trepidation, themselves. However, they’ve not been there yet, to this new place, with these new people, where their day is different… everything is different. So, it’s our job to make sure we prepare those people (and sometimes that environment) ready for their arrival.
The lucky ones of us, get to hand these eager little people to a school where we’ve met the teacher, she or he has come to visit, to read a story and welcomed them into their new school for an hour, or two or even more!
Some of us don’t.
Some of us have to cram as much information about that little one, disguise as many needs as possible as learning achievements and squeeze it onto two sheets of paper in determined little boxes (or three sheets, if you’re naughty like me and edited the form to expand the boxes and get more in!)
Sometimes, children need more support. The ones which are able to get high needs support may get their own one-to-one. This is fantastic! We can try and squeeze a visit in before the Summer Term! Download a conversation about the child in a million words a minute as, well, time is precious.
For all the language we use, with the parents, on the sheets, in the reports, on the phone with a new teacher, is this really what we want to say? ELG’s and exceeding, expecting (and entertaining!)
Is this what parent’s really, really want us to pass on about their child? Their stage-based, expected, linear development and suggestions to get them to the next one?
Or, how about… the essence. The very fabric and spirit of the child which we’ve come to learn and bond with over the past six, twelve months, two years? Sometimes since a babe in arms?
The disappointments, the victories, the subtle magnificent moments otherwise overlooked by those who may not have been watching… may not have known they SHOULD be watching? Waiting for them to figure something in particular out for themselves?
The glorious pride they feel in themselves is a spark compared to the roar of pride we feel when they arrive at that moment, master that skill.
I’m not talking literacy, numicon or circle time songs.
I mean a ‘REAL’ learning moment.
The willingness or enthusiasm to join an activity (finally!)
Being able to put their own shoes on (without convincing themselves “I can’t do it!)
The putting on of an apron after months of distressed tactile avoidance.
Trying a new food!
Allowing others to play!
Delighting in wallowing in sand or mud play without washing their hands every two minutes.
Challenging a friend during an injustice, instead of running to a teacher… or simply retreating from play altogether.
And the children who, sometimes, you catch a glimmer of a look between two teachers at the end of the day. One you THINK reads “oh thank goodness he’s gone home! We had to fasten our seatbelts today!”
Well, you know what? That is the child which we lose the most sleep over. The one who needs our time, needs an attachment and patient adult in their school life. These are the children we want so much more time with a future teacher, to talk about their successes – the successes which seem smaller than some other children, but they’re actually oh so big! One who appears so different on the surface and yet so deep underneath – but, new teacher, you’re going to have to work harder. It won’t be easy. But we did it, you're excellent and we know you can too! And guess what… this is what we learnt about…! Now we can let you know too!
Sometimes children breeze into school. They just seem ready for the next step and others around them seem so confident. They’re the children who don’t get the time. The conversations.
What we really want to say is “Yes, she knows her phonics, but it took so much support with sound discrimination, her speech was very late to develop and she got sad and avoided group activities for such a long time. Then one day, she managed to say the ‘r’ in my name! She lit up! She’s been ever so keen to show me how many phonics she’s learnt now! So please listen… she’s a sensitive little bean, her confidence is knocked ever so easily, I’d hate for that to happen again, please be careful how you word her achievements…”
And friendship groups… wow, the politics of a 3-4 year old is astounding! Perhaps we’ll leave that for another time…!
I know, I know, at the end of the day, a nurturing start and a positive disposition to learning is what we ground ourselves with. It would be silly to get emotionally entangled with every child. But it is very hard not to. And we do manage to let go, however just like the parents, having a little reminder about just how clever and loved they are, goes a long way to helping them take confident steps into their new school.
At NurturePlay, we use ‘transition stones’ for two reasons.
Firstly, they are perfectly pocket-sized. Slightly anxious children can keep them close all day without them being a distraction to others, They are sensory-rich and perfect for rolling around in the palm of your hand. For the first few days at school, they serve as a lovely gift for parents to give to children, or for teachers to attribute to children to look after during their day. (I gave one to my year six during SATs week – worked a treat!)
Secondly, they are our nurturing stone. When children create achievements in their day, which need to be shared – we issue the heart stone to go home. Look after it carefully and bring back next time, ready to celebrate your friend’s successes.
Just a couple of small initiatives to create an emotionally-friendly approach to transition by parents or teachers.
Thanks for reading.