SOLSC: March 13, 2016 & Digilit Sunday:Transition is hard for all of us


This DigiLit Sunday Margaret invites us to reflect on the word transitions.  At first, I was happy to reflect  and write about transitions in our classroom, since that is where we are as a learning community: after all, we are transitioning from dependent sixth graders to independent almost seventh graders.  But then, I thought back to Friday, and then I wasn’t so happy at the prospect of writing about transitions in our classroom…Friday was hard, and here’s why.  

In my mind, we had worked hard since September and we were ready to transition into a new phase of independence and empowerment. With each passing week and month, it seemed that my students were slowly but happily building towards self reliance: our routines were locked into place, every phase of learning had been designed with scaffolds in place, and my kiddos were moving from day to day with a greater sense of autonomy in everything from what our read aloud should be to the choice of poems to unpack for Poetry Thursday.  When I envisioned what transition would look like as we approached the last marking period and a half of the school year, this is what I saw:


In other words, I saw my kids ready to leave behind the old (help and guidance every step of the way) for the new (independence! assurance!).  Last week’s homework was designed with this “new life” in mind – I explained, but not too much.   And, on Friday (the day these assignments were due), we also sat down to write a narrative about the Trail of Tears based on a movie we’d seen, taken notes on and discussed in class, and a first person account.  Here was the task: you are a journalist reporting on the Trail of Tears, write an account giving background information about the events that led to the Trail of Tears, what the experience of the journey had been like for the Cherokee, and  reflect upon the consequences of this event.

First, I need to say that there had been undercurrents of unhappiness with the homework assignments, which we had spent a good deal of Friday discussing and clarifying.  I was puzzled that my kids, who are not shy about expressing themselves at all, had waited that long to clarify their questions.  By the time we got around to our Social Studies narrative, one I thought would give them the freedom to jump into as enthusiastic writers, there was a certain sense of unease in the air.

No one jumped in with enthusiasm. Instead, there was an eerie silence…followed by a flurry of raised hands and then a multitude of questions:

Do you mean…???

Should I say…???

What should I….???

How would I…?

With each question, two things began to occur simultaneously: my kids became more anxious, and I became more annoyed.  After all, I thought, how much clearer could the directions have been? Why were my sixth graders all of a sudden such puddles of doubt?   Bit by bit, I answered questions and put information on the board that would guide them as they wrote.  Bit by bit, I began to understand the source of their anxiety.  I had transitioned too abruptly; my students did not feel the exhilaration of “the new”, instead they felt this:


With a few clarifications, and a tiny bit of guidance, however, they were ready to rock and roll with those narratives – they were more than able to complete the task.  What I had forgotten, in my haste to transition to the last phase of our sixth grade life, was that even independence requires this:


Lesson learned!


22 thoughts on “SOLSC: March 13, 2016 & Digilit Sunday:Transition is hard for all of us

  1. This sounds like a great assignment and I’m sure once they got their feet back under them, they did a great job. It’s always hard to determine exactly how much independence they’re ready for and often that can change depending on other things that are happening.

  2. Our posts are polar opposite, but earlier in the week, you know how much I struggled with their independence. In the glory of the quiet on Thursday, I almost forgot our struggles from earlier in the week when questions and doubt prevailed. It’s like this always, this push, pull toward independence. Thanks for writing so honestly.

  3. You chose graphics that really supported your writing. It’s great how students always let us know (in the end) what we could improve. I am sure that they are ready for more independence and will soon amaze you with their next steps. You are such a responsive teacher!

  4. Some big truth here, my friend. I’m always blown away when I think something is totally, totally clear and then my students (sometimes adults and sometimes children) completely fall apart. AARGH! And then it is time to pull out the support and scaffold and guide and advise! Thanks for this important reminder.

  5. I love this post. I just wrote on julienne’s that sometimes it is in the noticing of where we are that the transitions work best. You always notice and adjust. Your photos of signposts appeal to me. I wish I had them to raise when I noticed kids at the corner of ready and bewildered.

  6. We all need support and guidance. What we think is a minor upping of the work may leave questions we hadn’t thought they needed to be answered. This practice is good for them. It’s all a part of their transition.

  7. Love this! The gradual release is so important – your reflection on how they were transitioning is critical and an ofter overlooked part of assessment. Thank your for reminding and once again teaching all of us by inviting us into your classroom.

  8. Always returning to the support and guidance is so powerful. As an educator, even when I’m working independently, that assurance is powerful for me as well. Thank you for showing us how you did this for your students.

  9. I’ve had days like that with my seventh graders…when it takes me a minute (or two or twenty) to see exactly where the disconnect has occurred. I will remember your road signs in the future! Your slice and photos will remind me to gently steer us back on track. Thanks for the words of wisdom!

  10. Your expectations did not meet what you were seeing. How wise of you to instantly analyze the issue and bring the learning back into focus. Every day, they learn, we learn. Great post!

  11. I loved how once you did slow down, explain, answer their questions, then they as you said “rock and roll their narratives”!! And how wonderful that they feel safe to ask questions when they are on confusing roads! Love all the sign images, too!

  12. We all have days like these. This week I decided not to count an assignment most of my students struggled with. If that many had difficulty, I hadn’t prepared them adequately.
    I hope some of the newer teachers read this and know that even veterans need to regroup and reflect. Just because you taught it doesn’t mean that it was learned.

  13. Glad that the students finally spoke up. This was a learning experience for you and the students. I like the illustrative pics that you have included.

  14. This is so awesome – I LOVE your signpost images! You’ve perfectly described an experience I can relate to – I teach gifted kids, so sometimes I mistake their intelligence with readiness. I jump too quickly into projects without always explaining everything clearly, and then I’m surprised and yes, annoyed, when they don’t get it. We need to back up and try again.

  15. And it happens to us all at one time or another. You are wise to have figured it out, placing no blame on either yourself or the students. I’ve been in that “confused” & “perplexed” state since becoming the volunteer coordinator at the bookstore. Things are still “unclear”, but with questions asked, it’s improving. I think it’s great that your students are willing to ask the questions. That’s something to celebrate.

  16. These moments of transition resonate as tropes to me. I’m seeing the same kind of thing w/ my AP Lit and Comp students with a little over a month before the exam. I’m worried about the MC, and even in the college night class I teach transitioning from one speech assignment to another can be treacherous terrain. Yes, learning tropes, that’s how I see transitions. BTW, learning about the Trail of Tears is so important. I love the idea that kids are reporters.

  17. the graphics were terrific transitional posts to lead me through your piece of writing. This is a wonderful post, Tara. We always have to remember that transitions are difficult and as the guide we can make them smoother if we see the signs.

  18. I love how you stops and adjusted to what our students needed. Your signs are great – support, guidance and help and advise. A great reminder to us all as learners. Transitions are hard.

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