The Freshman Transition Network

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

Hi Folks - I have not posted for quite a while.  Here at Urbandale High School we are currently in our 8th year of a 9th Grade House / SLC project.  And, while our results are quite well in general, I feel as if we are hitting kind of a plateau and need some ideas for reinvigorating things.  

Along with two others, I am the only member of our original team.  Others have gotten smart, and moved out of education, while others have taken on new roles in the district.  And, while the newer members of the team are well qualified individuals and have the best interests of the students in heart and mind, I feel as if some of our "mojo" is gone.  We have not had any quality new initiatives in quite some time.  It feels as if we are in constant re-tread mode.

In an effort to boost things, we are currently using "The Ninth Grade Opportunity" as a book study during our common planning time.  That has provided some good discussions, but it seems as if the conversation always turns to me saying "well, been there, done that".

I am looking for some ideas on how to reignite the fire that we took off with several years ago.  I don't know if it is me (and if it is I am completely embarrassed) or just the necessity with which we started is no longer there.  If anyone has some suggestions, I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR THEM!!

Yours in education

Gary Birdwell
Urbandale High School

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Thanks, Gary, for your very honest thoughts.  I appreciate you using The 9th Grade Opportunity.  

It might be that folks need to a reminder of the bigger mission - of the need to Go Beyond the Content.  

Let me if I can help out!


You are not alone. We are in our 6th year as a Freshman Academy. 15 staff. Half of them new since we started. I would recommend a TED talk that I've linked below to get at the WHY of what we do. As I walk a similar path, my sense is that we need to come back to realizing again and that our freshmen have not traveled the same path. High school is a completely new deal to them. The journey from May to August is really a backward journey as we prepare for kids that are new to the high school experience.

Todd Novak

Sioux Falls, SD

Gary, we also use Scott's book, The Ninth Grade Opportunity, as a model for our Freshman Academies.  My district is only in the 2nd year of 9th grade small learning communities, and we are seeing a much more positive climate/culture.  I would imagine that like any program, unless there is something new or innovative, it sometimes feels like the 'same old, same old.' 

I participate in a couple of Twitter chats (#satchat,  #ALedchat), and they always leave me inspired and pumped!  It would be so great to start a 9th grade edchat to begin sharing ideas and connecting with other schools as a means of learning and growing. 

Scott, what are your thoughts?  Even if we start twice a month - that might grow to every week.  I'd be happy to co-moderate... :)                           Leslie

Leslie - not a bad idea. I wonder what type of response we'd get.


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