June 01, 2023

Into the Unknown

Into the Unknown - Into The Unkown
Into The Unknown

Spring is often seen as a time of change and renewal, as plants blossom and new life appears following the long, cold Chicago winter. In schools, however, change is more closely linked to the Summer, as we prepare for the end of the school year and start thinking ahead to the next. It is at this time of year as a teacher, particularly of the younger children, that we begin to notice them showing a heightened level of attachment to us both emotionally and, often physically, with them quite literally attached to our side. There are often changes in behavior that signal they recognize that changes are ahead, and they are becoming more aware and unsettled about these.

Transition puts huge demands on children. As humans, we are largely hardwired to take comfort from routine, from the familiar, from the expected. Despite change being an inevitable part of life, it often unsettles us as we lose a sense of control over what is to come. This anticipation naturally leads to anxiety. New adults, new spaces, and new friends are all changes that every child will encounter whether they move to the next year group or are moving on to another school. Preparing for these changes is key.

We like to think of transition as a process not a one-off event at BISC-LP and prioritize this to support children’s emotional well-being. Over the Summer term, we have playdates for our Pre-Nursery children to visit spaces in the 814 building, our Y6 children get opportunities to visit the South Loop campus throughout the year, our friendly faces class lists enable children to become familiar with their new class and our teacher videos introducing themselves allow children to get to know their teacher a little more. Our transition day is a great way for children to visit their classroom and get to know some new routines as is our Meet the Teacher event right before school starts.

This year, we have introduced a new whole school topic called ‘Farewell and Change’ which will take place over the last three weeks of the year to support children to prepare for the upcoming changes and to celebrate all they have achieved and overcome. It creates a full circle moment, linking back to our whole school topic of ‘This is Me’ which we do at the beginning of each new year.

Roof Transition Activity

In addition to these examples, we can look at supporting transition from two angles, the practical and the emotional. Both are equally important and, together, support children to feel more prepared.

Emotional support

Managing emotions and finding ways to self-regulate will be important in the lead-up to changes and whilst experiencing them.

Utilize the Zones of Regulation that the children are familiar with. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and recognize both the positive as well as the negative.

Identify what it is that is causing these feelings. Often just identifying what it is that is causing us concern can alleviate some worries.

Consider what they could do about these things. Once we take control of something, we often feel better. For example, could they prepare questions for their new teacher for when they first meet them to find answers to some of the unknowns that are causing them to worry?

List all of the things that will be staying the same. When we alert ourselves to the constants, we create a sense of safety and security.

Celebrate all that makes them who they are. Feeling a strong sense of self will aid comfort and emotional resilience.

Consider their journey in the previous year. How did they feel at the beginning of the year compared to the end? Alert them to the fact that they have already experienced change and transition and have managed this.

Think about all the ways the Goal Squad can help them, especially Mrs. Adaptable. She always reminds us that ‘change is strange’ but we have a tool box of strategies to support us to manage the strange feelings we experience.

Practical support

Grounding the changes in practical solutions can alleviate some of the concerns and reduce the unknowns.

Identify and practice key skills they may need to be independent in. This could be as simple as hanging their backpack up or taking out their lunch.

Consider promoting relationship-building before returning to school. Can they meet some friends for playdates to become familiar with new classmates?

As the new year draws closer, talk about the route they will take to their classroom each morning. Where will you be dropping them off? Which door will they be entering the school from?

Discuss what their end-of-day will look like. Will they be attending a club or aftercare? Who will be picking them up? Where will this be from?

Think about where they will store their belongings. Decorating lockers at Meet the Teacher is always a highly anticipated event and this can also be used to help the children recognize how they can best organize their belongings to make their days as smooth as possible.

The change, anticipation, excitement, and worry in the first few weeks can be exhausting. Keep schedules as light as possible to allow them to manage their feelings, decompress, and build up their stamina for full days back at school.

Where possible, limit other changes. Starting a brand-new activity out of school at the same time as adjusting to change in school may be overwhelming for some children.

Stories are a wonderful way to open up conversations about change and begin to prepare for it. Here are some picture books you may want to explore as a starting point.

Circles by Brad Montague

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright

The Day You Begin by Jaqueline Woodson

Little Tree by Loren Long

It’s almost time to go into the unknown. We can all work together to support the children to reframe this as an exciting chance of endless possibilities as opposed to something to fear. We may even learn something ourselves in the process.

“Remember that the only constant in life is change” – Buddha


Steph Davis

Reception Teacher & Early Years Curriculum Director