The Freshman Transition Network

Working together to transition freshmen & transform schools from the bottom up!

Please tell the other members of the network a little about yourself. Nothing is too short and nothing is too long. Just let us know who we are so we can turn this network into a true community.

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Hello everyone-

I'm a former English teacher turned fanatic about freshmen transtition and who now enthusiastically teaches 9th graders how to live their best lives!

Over 12 years ago, I was asked casually by administration to 'find a way to improve reading scores in the district and then teach that to the teachers." I ended up creating a video series of actual students teaching reading strategies. Teachers were enthusastic and our scores began climbing.

A year later when their funding ran out, they asked me to "figure out how to help our 9th graders transition better an decrease their D/F percentages." What they did not know at the time, that for years, I'd been infusing "reality check"-type and life planning lessons into my English classes. I was so frustrated by the apathy, and lack of concrete emphasis anywhere in teenagers lives directed at helping them overcome the challenges of becoming adults in an increasingly complex world. I wanted to improve motivation and help all students see the relevance of their education, as well as begin to truly make life decisions. 

All that work, combined with my video series, evolved into a course we call Foundations for Success and the project/curriculum I developed called Get Real! a reality project for teenagers. It takes them on a journey of self-discovery, teaches them independent learning skills and walks them through thinking about planning their futures.

I self-published it a year ago to save my school's copy budget. Through the grapevine, a some fluke bits of publicity, several schools found out about it and are beginning to use it. I also found Dr. Dedmond's Freshmen Transition Initiative at George Washington Univeristy and had Get Real! reviewed by their experts so I could feel confident I was heading in the right direction. Originally my district refused to approve it, until it passed the standards set by the university program.

Many people in my own district have tried to make me feel 'guilty' about telling others about my work. I assume because it seems the world expects teachers to never use their professional skills to make any money. I battle that feeling a lot.

I hesitated to join this for the same reason, however, as a genuine educator, whose passion is helping kids, I refuse to let that stop me. If I could afford to give this to every single kid on the planet, I would, but sadly on a teacher's salary and trying to put 3 kids through college, I can't!

I also created a Parent Compaion, and parents who tried, tell me it has truly helped them better engage in their teens education and authentically give them ways to help coach them into adulthood. Get Real! helps them start the conversations and guides them along.

So...9th graders and support for them have become my life focus and passion (aside from raising my own teens into adulthood).

I join to share what I've learned, but mostly to learn what other things are out I can continue to improve on what I do and can contribute to others seeking info so they do not have to re-invent the wheel.


Beth Decker

Get Real! Learning


Beth - welcome to The Freshman Transition Network.  Your story is somewhat similar to my own.  Sounds like you have a lot to offer the rest of this group.  


Get Real! sounds like a wonderful curriculum.  I checked out your website.  Looks like you have some good ideas that are well presented.


You ought to check out our book:


I think your curriculum ideas could fit in nicely to the structure/model we help schools create.


I'm a public middle school inner city computer applications teacher in Dallas.  I first posted here 11-22-10 and things have been quiet. Your post indicates that we were battling much the same issue from different perspectives and with different age groups.  I teach 7th graders.  I will not repeat the 11-22-10 post but in summary, in 2005 we started a 10-year time-capsule project to focus our middle school students onto their own plans for the future and their own lives. We bolt 500-pound vaults in central locations in the school lobby and now have 7 installed in 7 schools.  The first high school we targeted went from a 7 year graduation rate average of 34% (2000-2007) to 60% with the Class of 2010. The high school had liked what they saw happening and started a high school level School Archive Project in 2009.  Our annual report for 2010 is at  in the blog for our project and other issues facing our schools.


Hopefully together we can solve this dropout crisis our nation faces.  Our web site is

Hello. I am a 9th grade English teacher at Haddon Heights High School in Haddon Heights, NJ. I also teach our new English I support class, as well as our desperately-in-need-of-help Summer Bridge program. I joined this ning in hopes of gaining information and knowledge to help me in planning for a better Summer Bridge program. This program is designed to halp give at-risk, incoming 9th graders a 2 week jump start on high school. This program has no curriuclum and no real direction. I am really struggling to figure out what those 2 hours a day, 4 days a week, for 2 weeks can really be used for.

Although I understand that this site primarily supports a program that spans an entire 9th grade year, I am hoping to find help and resources to utilize our current situation to provide some greater assistance to these bridge students than I feel we have been providing in the past.

Welcome, Dannielle.  We hope you'll find a lot of good ideas on this site.  You might try starting a Forum Discussion about programs that run during the summer before 9th grade.  You never know - might get some folks with some good ideas.

Hi Danielle,

I am also a 9th grade English teacher turned freshmen transition 'guru'. It has become my passion and now I can't imagine going back to teaching English.

I was asked to create a program like your school seems to be devleoping to 'rescue all the drowing freshmen'. 12 years later and long story short, I published a project/course curriculum called Get Real! Several schools use it for the entire 9th grade year...HOWEVER a couple junior highs approached me recently and asked if I would whittle it down to a shorter version more geared for 8th graders. I did and it basically takes them on a journey of self-discovery and the initial differences around education from junior high and high school plus peeking into adulthood a bit and the decisions coming their way soon.

 It's still going through final edits yet, but I could send you a samle of a couple lessons/activities and the table of contents. My project would probably still be too much for your 16 hours but maybe it could give you some ideas or you could pick and choose lessons...The junior highs that are going to use it this fall plan on implementing some of the lessons into their freshmen English classes because it does introduce independent literacy strategies as well.


Feel free to get a general idea at or email me at and I can send you the samples, etc.

Hope this helps, and I hope you hear from others about other ideas because I always love hearing what others are doing.

Hi Dannielle,


I am a counselor in Racine, WI and the coordinator for our first semester "Freshmen Mentoring Program".  It is required of all freshmen and runs Mon-Thurs during the first 20 minutes of their lunch period.  I am currently working on a way to put our activites together in the form of a curriculum, but I'm having some 'issues' with it.  I will throw some ideas out there to get you started, though.  

The first things we do are some general team building activites. If they feel like they are acquainted with a few people, it makes the first few days less intimidating.

After tours of the building, locker orientation, lunch room and locker room proceedures, etc., we offer success strategies specific to classroom teachers.  I have polled our teachers of freshmen classes and asked them to identify things like "What is the student expected to bring to class ea. day?" "Were/How is the homework communicated to the students daily?"  "How much time is a student expected to spend outside of the classroom on this class?"  "Is a notebook required? And how/when is it evaluated?"  "How are test dates communicated?"  This information is compiled and udated each year.  In addition, t is posted on our school's website for reference.

We also spend time on note taking strategies and test taking strategies, again, supplied by our freshmen teachers according to their expectations.  Our incoming students do not have these skills and have difficulty transitioning from 'fill-in-the-blank' assignments to reading for content. 

We have also learned how important it is to have upper classmen share their experiences with our students throughout the semester.  They listen differently to them, especially if there is a broad representation of upper classmen acting as mentors.

Give it some thought and feel free to contact me if you need clarification.  I apologize if I have outlined things you already have in place.  It has been my experience that everyone's programs are very different.


Kristen Monty

Racine, WI 


Kristen - those are some good ideas that you shared with Danielle.  Feel free to do a blog post at some time about your school's program and the impact it's had.  I think people would benefit from reading it and in a blog post format it would be easy to find for years to come.


You mentioned curriculum needs.  Check out the latest tab on this network - "Curriculum"



My name is Kelly Stollings.  I am beginning my 20th year as an educator at Watauga High School, in Boone, NC.  I serve as chairperson of the English department and currently teach two sections of freshman English and four sections of AP English Literature and Composition.  My husband, Jesse, teaches history at WHS, and my daughter, Mary Katherine, is a big, happy family at the high school!  :)

A little about our school:  WHS is a 9-12 high school with a population of approximately 1500 students, who come to us from eight different K-8 county schools.  We operate on a hybrid schedule--a mix of 4 x 4 and A/B year long classes.  We do not have a freshman transition program at this time, but we have organized a team of teachers to explore possibilities.  I am excited to be a member of this team, and I look forward to exploring ideas that will benefit our students.

Thanks for introducing yourself, Kelly.  I hope you'll fine some resources here that benefit you.  Please let me know if I can every help you out in anyway.

I am from Joplin, Mo where an F-5 tornado completely destroyed our high school on May 22, 2011. I am assistant principal for 9th grade. We are now in the process of trying to figure out the future of our new high school. Will we have career academies? Will Freshman be separated from grades 10-12? We have one opportunity to start from scratch and create an incredible learning community for our students. We have approximately 2200 students in grades 9-12 with approximately 575 in 9th grade. We were previously all housed together, but we were having a lot of conversations about how to redesign 9th grade in our school. Now that we are displaced, our 9th and 10th grade students are together in a 100 year old building. Grades 11-12 are housed in a renovated area of the local mall. It has been a positive experience to have the grades divided in this manner. We have less truancy with 9th and 10th graders. Overall discipline is down as well. It has been nice to see sophomores step up and be the upperclassmen role model to current freshman students. I would like feedback on having 9th and 10th together versus a separate 9th grade transition program. We do not have years to plan because of our current displacement. It is imperative that our building process begin soon, so we have to come up with a plan soon that will best serve our students. Please provide feedback.

Sandra - thanks for the excellent questions.  You all have been through so much - it's hard for us to imagine.  I am sure that the children of Joplin are blessed to have educators like you looking out for their needs.  


I sent a detailed reply to your questions as a direct message.  I'll also forward a copy of that reply to your school email address.


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