Life is full of transitions, and since Montessori is education for life, you will often hear us talking about the importance of transitions. For some of you that has meant driving off from a crying child in the morning because they are in the middle of the transition from home to school. For others, you have to hold your child back because they are so excited about becoming a third year in lower elementary – another transition and growth opportunity. Others are in transition due to moving to a new house or a new state or have a new baby that joined the family. All of these transitions combine to make life interesting, challenging, and exciting. They are the changes that can bring both joy and frustration into your child’s life and into the Mountain Shadows classroom.
But what does all this mean and how can we help children cope with change and transitions? Children benefit from a predictable schedule. This schedule can be flexible when needed, but a structure provides a sense of calm and anticipation. That is why we ask for you to arrive at school by 8:15 a.m., because it supports the predictable nature of your child’s day. Whether they are 12 months or 12 years old, it allows them to get in the flow of the routine with their classmates and teachers and helps the transition into their school day go more smoothly.
We know that what we practice we can become good at, so our youngest students spend a great deal of time practicing the process of transitions. With the wise guidance of the YCC team, they understand the patterns of arriving at school, the steps of preparing to go outside, the consistent and predictable sequence of events throughout their day.
This practice continues in the Primary class as children have additional freedom, but still benefit from the stability of a schedule. Knowing what to expect supports transition and allows us to be flexible with the new parts, and there are many more new parts in Primary. During the morning work cycle, Primary students transition from work to work, choosing the material they want to do next. This allows them to feel some power in a transition and provides practice in seeing how that choice impacts them and the people around them. It is always important to be able to see where the structure ends and freedom begins in a transition.
In the elementary classroom, the child has moved to the age of the reasoning mind. For those of you with children just joining this new life stage you know it is full of transitions. The child is finding a new self and that means you are discovering this new person as well – change and transition. In the elementary class the children have a different level of independence because they have a different level of responsibility. Their reasoning mind asks why and grapples with the reasons we give or that we leave for them to discover. They are exploring change and transition and finding it to be both scary and exciting – that is truth and practice for life. As they move through the elementary, they become more comfortable with transitions but change will always bring challenge. The good news is that challenge brings growth, and growth, well, it brings new transitions. As they explore the transitions from day to night, from winter to spring, from egg to tadpole to frog, the elementary student is given the opportunity to understand that transitions are a regular part of life. They reflect on “when they were little” like they are middle aged, but from this new perspective are able to see that it is transition that has brought them to where they are. With that insight, looking into the future, you have some structure on which to build this change and transition and the confidence to face it as your highest and best self.
Understanding transitions is an essential part of having a growth mindset. It allows us to see where we are in learning something as part of a process, not a place we are stuck in forever. Feeling comfortable with transitions will not remove the challenge of change in the future, but practice should give them some insight into how to strategically approach that transition and as a result reduce anxiety and stress, allowing them to take on the challenge of change from a positive perspective.