The Freshman Transition Network

Working together to transition freshmen & transform schools from the bottom up! name is Fran Schlenoff. I recently became the Director of Guidance in a New Jersey School. I am looking into starting a Freshmen Studies Program at the High School. Any help is appreciated!!!

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Comment by Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro on October 10, 2010 at 10:37pm
Hi Fran,
Congratulations on the new job!!!!
You may be interested in the program I'm Awesome, But I Have My Limitations which would be a terrific assembly program for your 9th grade students. The program won't build an entire Freshman Studies Program but it will provide you with an excellent program which can have ties to the math, science, English and Guidance programs. If you would like more information on the program I can send you a copy of the presentation and talk you through the program so you could present it (at no charge, of course). If you would like me to present the program at your school that could be arranged at special education rates which I offer my Freshman Ttransition Network Friends.

Again, Congratulations!!!

Comment by Gary Birdwell on October 5, 2010 at 8:39am
Fran - We set up our Freshman House 5 years ago. We started by giving myself and 3 other teachers an extra planning period to decide what we wanted our program to look like. We came up with a mission statement before anything else, then worked from that statement. You need to find a way to get things to fit your own needs for your school or schools. But what ever you do, be sure to empower the teachers that are going to be implementing the program at the "rubber meets the road" level. They have to have ownership in the program, or it will not work.

That being said, you must have a specific administrator that is working with your group. Someone who can clear any barriers to the initiatives that the group creates. Nothing is more frustrating to a group of teachers who are trying to improve a situation, come up with an initiative, then have things crumble due to a lack of administrative support. Plus, there are no surprises from an administrators standpoint. Everyone knows what is going on.

Allow time for trial and error. Even if things, whether they be activities, common expectations,field trips, or cross-curricular ideas, sometimes things don't pan out. Don't freak out, just make what I call a "fix-it" folder, and the next time you want to do something, look at what went wrong, and fix it. But you have to allow the staff to be creative and try anything.

Don't allow money to be the end-all. We set up our freshman program with very little money. I think the only things we have used over the five years was for subs in our planning stages, some field trip money for buses, and not much else. You don't need the crutch of "well, we don't have the money", people need to realize that things can be done within the current framework, if they are willing.

That being said, I would highly recommend that you use Scott's book for anyone that is going to be associated with your program. We found many of the things we went through, we all there in print. I think that is almost a blueprint of how to go about things. My group read the book last year and we have implemented some of the new ideas that we found.

Anyway, I am rambling. This is a good place to get feedback and contacts. I am always willing to lend what I can.
Comment by Jennifer on October 5, 2010 at 6:46am
Fran, I am a teacher on the Freshmen Transition Team at Salem High School where Scott Habeeb is principal. I can't offer a lot of the nuts and bolts of how to start a freshmen studies program, but I can speak from a little bit of experience to teachers who may be interested in being part of the program (or teachers who are a bit opposed to the idea!)

I truly feel that the most productive and blessed year of teaching was my first year on the transition team. There is nothing like working with other dedicated teachers for the sole benefit of students. In addition, in working with my colleagues, I learned how to really incorporate some wayside teaching in to a math class - a rarity as I have been told by Ray Moore. :)

I truly believe that the rewards of being a part of the transition year outweigh the work and time that it may take.

I hope I have helped in some way.
Comment by Scott Habeeb on October 4, 2010 at 8:30pm
Fran - thanks for ordering a copy of The Ninth Grade Opportunity. It should ship out to you via USPS within the next 2 days. I'm sure you'll find some ideas in there that will help you out. If after reading it you would like to talk about it or bounce some ideas around, just let me know.

One piece of advice - look to eventually build a comprehensive freshman program.

Also, start looking for teachers in the building to recruit to help you look into this. Don't assume that you have to only work with the current 9th grade teachers.

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