What does it really mean to belong and how do we ensure that the people around us – staff, students and parents – feel a strong sense of belonging to our/their schools? When we put students at the center, our actions should reflect a greater sense of belonging to the school.
One practice that we engage in that has the potential to have an early impact on the student and family’s sense of belonging to their schools is the work that we do in the area of transitions. Although we find ourselves immersed in “new beginnings” in January, our minds also turn to the Transition to Kindergarten Season, the transition from Kindergarten to Grade One and from elementary to secondary school, to name just a few. We are also thinking about students who possess special needs, and how these students need transition supports in addition to what has been planned for all (I think about the Pyramid of Intervention – 80% of our transition interventions are good for all, and 20% need to be essential for some). It is clear that long term, developmentally appropriate transition planning and implementation can make a tremendous difference to the success of students as effective transition work can foster a sense of belonging to a school (both for the student and for the family). It makes me think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Need:
Transition planning needs to be done carefully, thoughtfully and should reflect the developmental needs of the children. The Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario states that,
Much has been written about transitions in our district lately, and the various groups that we are working at supporting; making me think that collectively we see the alignment with our Board Learning Plan theory of action as these plans truly are student centered. Resources have been shared that provide ideas to help students to focus on their strengths, planning documents are encouraging long term transition plans that contain a variety of activities that involve both children and families, meetings are taking place to deeply understand the needs of students before they move into a secondary school, and opportunities for students to have a voice in the courses that may be offered have been discussed. I have even been reading about reach ahead programs in the local newspaper whereby students in specific courses in the elementary school attend those same programs at their local high school in the evening – they become accustomed not only to the physical space of the school, but grow a connection to at least one teacher, and gain significant confidence in their abilities in one particular curricular area. I am not sure if this program is still happening in our district, but I would encourage everyone to think about how it might positively impact. We have a great start to helping students to gain a sense of belonging through a very specific programs.
Until next week…how are you formalizing transition plans that engage our community partners?