The end of the school year is quickly approaching, and some students at Montessori Tides School already are preparing for next year.
Those students who are moving into a new classroom in the fall are starting their transitions now by spending part of their school days in their future classrooms. This transition week helps the students learn about their future classrooms and ease concerns about moving up.
Many of the students have spent three years in their current classrooms, so the move to a new environment with new teachers and classmates can be a little scary, especially with younger children.
One of the wonderful things about the three-year cycles, however, is that when a child moves into a new classroom, the child will get to renew friendships with older children who already have moved up, as well as meet new friends. Many students are excited to be with their old friends in the classroom again.
“The rising students are happy to see faces they already know,” said Ms. Nancy, who is in the Lower Elementary class. “I believe this helps them feel more comfortable in the environment.”
Another wonderful thing about the Montessori classrooms at MTS is that the children’s interactions are not limited to who is in their classrooms. The Elementary students participate in community service by visiting different classrooms to help the teachers and students. You may find the older children sitting with a toddler completing a puzzle or helping a Primary child with an activity.
When those younger children move up, they may find themselves sharing a classroom with the same students they have seen in their classrooms for community service. Ms. Johanna said community service helps her toddlers get used to the idea of the older students being a resource for them.
“Being at ease with other children of all ages in a supportive, non-competitive setting gives the school that big family feeling,” Ms. Johanna said. “The older children know the little ones by name, and the little ones often light up when they see one of the older students on the breezeway or arrive in their classroom.”
Children with older siblings at MTS often are already familiar with the classroom they are moving into and some of the students. This familiarity also helps to ease the transition into a new room for some children.
In the Elementary classrooms, the idea of using an older child as a resource takes on more importance since new students are paired with a mentor. The children learn everything from how to have snack to what the daily work and lessons are like, Ms. Nancy said of the mentor/protégé relationship in Lower Elementary.
“The younger rising students are quite responsive to the guidance of the elementary students,” she added.
The children and their parents are notified ahead of time when the child will visit his new classroom. A teacher will walk the student to his future classroom for a morning visit during the transition week. For toddlers, the morning visit may last only an hour in the Primary classroom, while older students will spend more time.
During their visits, the children are presented with appropriate activities to do and are given a glimpse of how the classroom works. Miss Jess said her rising students are introduced to several weekly activities they can expect to participate in the next year in Upper Elementary, which presents an interesting period of social growth.
“The Lower Elementary students were established in their previous environment and had been around long enough to be a solid mentor,” she said. “Being a new member in the classroom means they need to be okay with asking for help again when they are unsure. We are especially lucky to have our three-year cycles and to have already established relationships.”
Transition week is a good example of the Montessori idea of “follow the child.”
“We look at the child to see what specific support is needed to make them feel comfortable and at ease about the visit,” Ms. Johanna said. “If more support is needed, we can usually tell by the way the child is behaving or communicating. We can take a step back if we need to, move at a slower pace, or create baby steps. It is our goal to help the child transition with success.”
She added that transitions do take time once the new school year begins. It can take a few weeks, she said, before the child fully adjusts to the new classroom, routine and expectations.
Miss Jess said, “Being nervous about a transition is normal. Even the teachers are excited and nervous for the new year.”
It can take parents time to adjust to the new routines, too. Parents who have concerns about their child’s transition can always contact their child’s current teacher. During the transition week, Ms. Nancy suggested that parents talk to their children about how the classrooms are similar. Parents also are welcome to schedule an observation in their child’s future classroom or schedule a visit after school to meet their child’s future teachers.
“Open communication between parents, children and the new teachers is imperative,” Miss Jess said. “Parents can ease any fears they or their child might have by observing the new classroom and sharing the philosophy with others. We want nothing more than for our children to have a joy-filled learning experience.”