The Freshman Transition Network

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Essential Components of an Freshman Transition Program - Part 7 - Student Recognition

This series of posts on the Essential Components of a Freshman Transition Program is based on ideas found in The Ninth Grade Opportunity: Transforming Schools from the Bottom Up by Scott Habeeb, Ray Moore, and Alan Seibert.

The key to successfully transitioning freshmen lies in several essential components. While these components might look different in different schools/communities/classrooms, they all should be present in order to meet the needs of 9th graders.

Each blog post in this series of will focus on a specific example of those essential components.

Post 1 and Post 2 in this series both dealt with the topic of teaming teachers. Post 3 in this series dealt with the importance of Standardizing Expectations.  Post 4 dealt with using your standardized expectations to enhance your Classroom Leadership.  Part 5 was about using a team approach to effectively teach organizational skills   Part 6 dealt with enhancing Parent/Teacher Contact.  This post focuses on Student Recognition.

Do you remember what it was like to be a freshman?  For some of us those days seem like ancient history, yet I bet even the most "seasoned" among us can recall at least some of the various emotions that accompanied the start of high school.  You were probably part scared, part excited, part nervous, and part hopeful.  You probably also felt a little lost, a little small, and a little insignificant in relation to the school as a whole.
All people need recognition.  They need to be known - maybe not by everyone, but definitely by someone.
There are a few events that really stand out in my mind from my freshman year in high school - and in some ways they all have to do with recognition.  I remember:
  • playing JV football and realizing that no one in the community really cared too much about the outcome of our games the way they did about the varsity team
  • being frustrated that all the freshmen girls seemed to be "taken" by the upperclassmen
  • having a hard time getting a date to the Sweetheart Dance due to the fact that I couldn't drive
  • wanting to be a leader in a club and learning that only upperclassmen could be officers
These are common occurrences in high schools.  While they may be natural "right of passage" events, as educators interested in transitioning freshmen we must intentionally find ways to make our 9th graders feel at home in our schools.  They want to be recognized.  If we don't give them positive recognition, many of them will find their own ways of getting it - and we all now that that is not always a positive situation!  
Let's recognize a few things:
  1. All people - including our freshmen - need to be recognized and feel as though they belong.
  2. It is often difficult for the typical freshman to find positive ways to be recognized within the typical high school setting.
  3. As a result of these first two realities, many of our freshmen either get "lost" within our high schools or make negative choices in an attempt to fit in.
So what can we do about it?  We can find positive and constructive ways to recognize freshmen so that they know they are are known and so that they feel as though they belong.  Here are some fairly simple ideas that you could incorporate into your school's Freshman Transition Program (FTP):
  1. Each FTP teacher can recognize a student of the week.  Try posting their picture online, giving them a certificate, posting their name in your classroom, and maybe even entering them in a drawing for a prize.  
  2. Students who improve or who achieve at certain levels can be placed into "Classroom Halls of Fame" that are then posted online and/or in the classroom.
  3. A display case in your school can be used to display outstanding freshman achievements.
  4. Post pictures and stories about freshmen on your team website or Facebook page.
  5. Tweet about student accomplishments.
  6. Raise funds/collect prizes and then give them away to students whose names are entered into a drawing based on positive classroom accomplishments.
  7. Create PowerPoint slideshows with your students' pictures.
  8. Have an FTP assembly and give awards to students.
  9. Highlight your students in emails sent out to parents and students.
I'm sure if you spent a little time brainstorming you'd be able to come up with many more ideas.  But please spend that time.  Make your school a place where 9th graders are recognized and feel that they belong.

For more information on teaming teachers to transition freshmen check out The Ninth Grade Opportunity: Transforming Schools from the Bottom Up.

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Comment by Scott Habeeb on January 14, 2012 at 2:38pm

Thanks, Ron.  Good idea.

Comment by Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro on January 14, 2012 at 10:16am

Nice article.   I would add a 10th item to the list of ways to recognize student achievements... Recognize student accomplishments by offering them increasing levels of leadership training and responsibility. 

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