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We know that during-the-year school transitions can be difficult for students. They enter an environment where social relationships largely have been established. Routines and expectations are familiar too and may largely be taken for granted by current students. The curriculum is already unfolding and may not be the same as students experienced at their previous school. All these factors argue for us to be attentive to and supportive of students as they enter our school and class mid-year. However, we also need to pay attention to the needs of parents and other caregivers of students who transfer schools during the year.  


With students experiencing a new social culture and learning what they need to succeed and become a part of their new school, parents and other caregivers, on the other hand, may feel like bystanders. They hope the transition goes well yet know there will be some “rough patches” as the child acclimates to the new environment. But they may not always know what to do. Parents and caregivers may be reluctant to reach out to check on how the transition is going. They may not know how and when to contact us. They may worry their inquiries appear overly protective. On the other hand, they may be concerned that if they wait too long to reach out, problems may develop and become more difficult to address later.    


Fortunately, by taking a few key steps, we can help parents and other caregivers to support children through school transitions and assist them to begin feeling a part of the school parent and family community.  


A good place to start is to collect key information – information we shared with families at the beginning of the school year to ensure their children were off to a good start. Parents and caregivers need this information to support their children. It’s also helpful information for families whose children join our school and class during the year.  


In the first days after a new student arrives, we can reach out to parents and caregivers to welcome them and share any observations we have about the initial experience of their child. We might share ways in which we welcomed their child and the excitement we feel at having their child in our class. Our reaching out also offers an opportunity to inquire about any information we need to know regarding their child, including how they feel about the transition and any support they may need. Letting them know we’ll send information they might find helpful, including schedules, class events, the best ways and times to contact us, and other routine matters, can help put parents and caregivers at ease. Informing them of upcoming parent and caregiver activities and events in which they may be interested creates a more welcoming transition for them, too.  


This is also an opportunity to schedule a check-in after the first week or so to learn about any emerging needs or concerns. This provides a good time for us to share our observations about how the student is acclimating academically and socially. Sharing a quick story about how their child is engaging, interacting with other students, or adjusting to the new environment can be reassuring and appreciated. Sharing the story helps assure them that we know their child, and we are paying attention. Of course, if emerging concerns or issues arise, we need to address them. The check-in can also provide a context for collecting information and sharing observations. 


In the weeks following the arrival of a new student, we can continue to pay attention to how the student adapts to class routines and expectations, as well as the development of peer relationships. A quick text or email sharing the student’s progress or describing a positive observation can offer valuable reassurance to parents and caregivers that the transition is going well, and the student has our attention and support.   


Of course, as time passes, new students naturally become a part of the school and class. Our attention and communication with families become part of the ongoing rhythm and pace of the school year. However, we still need to pay attention to whether parents and caregivers feel connected and included in the school community. The transition for students can be long past before parents and caregivers feel fully welcomed and comfortable in the new environment.  


Thought for the Week

When we understand another person’s perspective, what they are thinking and feeling, we are better able to relate to them and understand their needs.

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