The Freshman Transition Network

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

After 12+ years of teaching freshmen, being an administrator for freshmen, and consulting on the topic of freshmen, I finally am the father of a high school freshman!

My daughter, Kaitlin, started high school today. She is now officially a 9th grader – and I officially feel older than I should!

One key point that I have believed over the years is that freshmen are pretty scared/nervous when they come into the high school. I had no idea, however, just how true this is. Kaitlin is an excellent student. She is funny, personable, talented, well-liked, and pretty. She makes great grades and has plenty of friends. As a member of our school’s marching band – which has over 10% of our student body in it – she is already involved with school activities. She is coming to the high school from our system’s only middle school which means she knows virtually all of the students in her grade. Her father is the 9th grade administrator at her school and she knows many of the faculty members. She has been in the building numerous times over the years and already knows where many things are. You would think that Kaitlin would have complete confidence going into high school.

And you would think wrong! I have never seen my daughter so nervous. She couldn’t sleep the night before. She couldn’t remember simple things due to being so nervous and flustered. Her emotions were running high and out of control. It must have taken her 2 hours just to pack her backpack. She could barely think straight.

Imagine how much more terrifying or nerve-racking or overwhelming going to high school must be for a freshman who doesn’t know the school, the students, and the administrators or who doesn’t make good grades and isn’t involved with the school. There is something about going into that high school setting that is simply more than the typical 14 year old can handle.

I have preached the importance of Freshman Transition for many years. I now will preach it even harder. If your school is not actively setting out to provide supports for freshman, then it’s time to start. If you are not empowering your teachers to meet the needs of students, then it’s time to start. The 9th grade year is too important to let students slip through the cracks. It is imperative that smaller learning communities be created to nurture freshmen during this year. If Kaitlin needs this then I know for sure that the vast majority of freshmen in this country do as well.

If you or your school is just starting to consider 9th grade transition, you might check out The Ninth Grade Opportunity: Transforming Schools from the Bottom Up or the series of blog posts on Creating a Freshman Transition Program that starts with this post.

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Comment by Scott Habeeb on September 12, 2009 at 10:11pm
I guess life is full of transitions, and with 4 kids, Julie and I are sure to get our share! :)
Comment by Penny Robertson on September 12, 2009 at 8:49pm
I was in your shoes 4 years ago as my daugther entered 9th grade at Powhatan High School. Like your daughter, my daughter was involved in school activities, had been in our building numerous times, knew many of the teachers very well, etc. However, just like your daugther, she was scared about her first day of high school. I'm happy to say that she graduated with honors (many honors!) this past June, and is now transitioning again as a freshman at Meredith College In Raleigh. Actually, I see many similaries of supports in place at Meredith that I see in our PHS Freshman Transition program. As a parent, I'm thankful that she had a great freshman experience at PHS because of our strong program for freshman, and so far things look good at Meredith!
Comment by Cat Mejia on September 10, 2009 at 9:25am
This is my 9th year of teaching freshmen, and my 4th year on the Freshman Team at Salem High School. I truly believe that having a freshman team not only helps the students, but it also helps the teachers. The team helps 9th graders feel comfortable and secure more quickly than if they were left on their own to figure things out. This helps the teachers because when the students are comfortable they can focus on class instead of worrying about what's coming next. Our freshman team teachers have done an amazing job of getting things organized before school even started and setting up our opening week lessons with the intent of supporting these freshmen on the beginning of their journey through high school. One teacher cannot do it alone..... it takes a team.
Comment by Scott Habeeb on September 9, 2009 at 8:59pm
Thanks, Barry. Glad it made an impact. Let me know if you want to bounce any ideas off me. Also, as you begin finding things that work at your school be sure to blog about them here. If you have a link to your school's transition info, send it my way and I'll add it to the network.
Comment by Barry Balaski on September 8, 2009 at 11:52pm
I have been a member of this group for about 6 months without ever posting. I have been so busy reading the postings, watching the videos and soaking up as much information as I can that I never took the time to post. We are beginning the final planning stages of our 9th grade academy at Blackhawk High School. I have put together mentoring programs, bullying programs and academic programs to ensure the success of our students. One thing I forgot to do as all of this was to take care of my own family. This post finally hit home. I forgot all about my own son who started 9th grade almost 2 weeks ago. It will be my turn to preach the importance of freshman transition. I need to make sure that the supports that my son needs are in place at home and in his school. How easily we forget about our own when we are taking care of others. Thanks Scott for reminding me to take care of my own.

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