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Summertime and Your Freshman Transition Program

So you survived a school year - hopefully, you thrived instead of merely survived - and made it to summer.  This fall a whole new batch of freshmen will enter your school, and your Freshman Transition Program (FTP) needs to be ready to meet their needs and support them through this often difficult transition.  Is there anything you should be doing this summer?

Yes.

The summer can play a crucial role in the long-term sustainability of your FTP - regardless of your model.  It's when you bring new team members up to speed, give all involved teachers an opportunity to provide input, use your past experiences to shape your future, and build consensus around standardized expectations.

For the sake of this discussion, I am going to refer to those teachers as members of Freshman Teams.  (The benefits of teacher teams has been described in several blog posts on this site and in my book on Freshman Transition entitled The Ninth Grade Opportunity: Transforming School from the Bottom Up.)  Even if your school does use a teaming model, the ideas in this post should apply to your program.

Best practice includes bringing all Freshman Team teachers together for at least 1 day each summer.  There are several things that should be done during this time:

  1. Especially if there are teachers new to the FTP involved, someone needs to remind the group of the overall mission and purpose of the FTP.  This might be a good way for an administrator or school leader to be involved in the summer meeting.
  2. The team teachers need to reflect on the past year.  What went well?  What successes did you have?  What did not go as well as planned?  Do you have ideas for improvements?  Does the group see the need for any new strategies, programs, ideas, or procedures?
  3. The teachers need to make one comprehensive list of all the strategies, expectations, practices, procedures, programs, and tools they have used as part of their Freshman Transition efforts.
  4. If you're using a teaming model, your teams need to split up and each have a copy of the list you created in Step 3.  If you're just one big group of teachers, then move on to Step 5.
  5. Each team needs to place all the items on the list from Step 3 into 1 of 3 categories:
    • Strategies that should be standardized by all Freshman Teams - or in all freshman classrooms
    • Strategies that will be standardized on your team - but don't need to be standardized on all teams
    • Everything else - maybe they're great ideas, but they can be up to individual teachers to adopt or not
  6. The teams need to reconvene and compare lists.  This is the time to debate, to discuss, to listen to each other, and to brainstorm.  

The end goal of this process is to reach consensus.  Whatever the group decides is standardized stays standardized during the school year unless the entire group decides to change it.  One teacher may not unilaterally stray from the consensus reached during the summer.

This participatory and democratic process allows the team teachers to have ownership of the FTP.  It allows even brand new teachers to step into positions of leadership and have their voices heard.  This is much more effective than having an administrator tell the teachers what the administrative team has determined.  

Another benefit to this process is that it can be completely run by the teachers themselves.  Therefore, as administrators come and go, if this process is in place the FTP can remain solvent for years to come.

The school year is over and a new one is just around the corner.  Make the most of your summer so you'll be able to keep improving your ability to meet the needs of freshmen.  Your mission is vital to the success of your school culture!


For questions about Freshman Transition or to schedule a workshop, feel free to contact me by email at scotthabeeb@gmail.com or by phone at 540-389-2610.  You can also follow me on twitter at @scotthabeeb.

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