Quite generally, to most of us, transitions mean change. We have personal associations with change that can trigger a variety of emotions and very few of us are neutral about it. Even when we do not understand what the change is about, it still stirs up emotions. Most people do not like change as there are often conflicting emotions, especially when we understand the change that is taking place. This is normal for us, and thus it is normal for our children.
Transitions can also be understood as movement, which can be quite good – perhaps even fun! One can think of the slide in the garden or the waves on the sea. At school, transitions are usually from one activity to another or one area to another. The earliest transition our youngest children experience is that of home to school or from one classroom to another at the end of the school year. I have experienced a wide range of emotions with each transition and I find the most positive transitions happen when we are ready.
When children start school at about the age of two, Montessori explains to us that they will exhibit the unconscious absorbent mind. This means they learn without being aware that they are learning and the child then begins to construct themselves through their own independent work. As they grow, we observe concentrated cycles of activity especially in the activities of everyday living area and the development of spoken language. This is also mentioned by psychologist Eric Ericson when he says this is the time when they must resolve trust in their own initiative vs. shame and doubt. With lots of repetition and opportunities to succeed, the child will develop the conscious absorbent mind and show signs of readiness for transition to the next stage.
From three to approximately six years of age, children pass into the conscious stage of development. It means they are predisposed toward learning things like order, sequencing, early numeracy, music, and letter shapes and sounds, all of which eventually lead to mathematical operations, reading and writing skills. How wonderful! How exciting! How stressful for some people!
Changes do not need to be stressful. I believe the key is to see the transition as movement rather than a change. The best transitions happen at a gentle pace and are well prepared for. In order to ease a smoother transition, at school we prepare the little ones by letting them share outdoor playtime with the older children while maintaining continuity with their teachers and classmates. Inside they have opportunities to explore other classrooms within the context of their school day. Fear is often the result of worrying about the unknown, so by integrating the children into the broader school community, they are able to become familiar with new people and opportunities that will hopefully create a sense of excitement and belonging.
Christina is the Lead Teacher of the Sapphire classroom and before joining us, Christina worked a social worker, acting as a solid foundation in families that were transitioning through various stages in their developments.
She would like to conclude her blog with a small note: "On a personal level, I would like to share with you my transition for next year. I have worked full time with the Nicosia school for the past six years. They have been wonderful years so full of growth and meaning my heart fills up each time I think of them. Next year I will work on a limited part time basis -- one day per week in the Topaz classroom. I look forward to this as I explore the next phase of my life and career. There are so many emotions as we let go of the familiar routine to make room for new experiences. Like with the children, I have prepared for this and there is no element of unknown, and I will reflect on these things as summer approaches and I watch the waves on the sea"