Holland Hallmarks Articles
Middle School Transitions By Design
Head of the Middle School
In a middle school that spans five grade-levels, there’s probably no better word to describe the passage of students from one developmental stage to the next than “transitions.” Many middle schools across the nation, along with the Association of Middle Level Education, identify being “developmentally responsive” an essential attribute of successful middle grades schools; and at Holland Hall, we pay particular attention to how we transition students through our program. The transitions through the Middle School are smoothed by our faculty’s intentional review of the scope and sequence of the curriculum, the experiences provided to students at key points of the program, and the informational meetings offered for parents throughout the second half of the school year.
Through department and grade-level meetings, our faculty constantly discuss upcoming and review past curricular events. Within this framework of ongoing strategic thinking, we ensure the curriculum spirals effectively. A spiraling curriculum not only builds on previous units taught, but also revisits skills and content as necessary to move students through the introductory, proficient, and mastery stages of competency. Being “in the middle” requires us also to communicate consistently with our colleagues in the both Primary and Upper School. While everything the Primary School does prepares our students for a successful transition to the Middle School, everything we do must do the same for our students entering the Upper School. Through all-school department meetings and transition meetings between third/fourth and eighth/ninth grade-level faculty at the end of the year, we hold ourselves accountable to this task.
Starting in November, we provide transition experiences for our eighth grade students. These late November Shadow Days pair eighth grade students with ninth grade students for a day. Our middle school students look forward to this opportunity to see the modular schedule in action. Their excitement for the following year is palpable following this event. Eighth graders also have the opportunity to interact with juniors through the POP Program – Power of Peers. Through several meetings in the second semester, the juniors speak on topics ranging from decorum at the Winter Dinner/Dance to the importance of finishing your middle school year strong. And, certainly, Closing Exercises is a wonderful celebration to mark a successful completion of the middle school career.
In February, we start focusing our attention on the third grade class. I make a point of visiting the third grade three to four times. My first visit is merely to introduce myself and to start the process of de-mystifying the middle school. Subsequent visits are to show my support during learning celebrations. In late April/early May, we welcome the third grade class for a morning in fourth grade. The students get to experience an abbreviated rotation of classes and lunch in the MS Refectory. And, of course, it’s always a joyful experience to see the rising class of fourth graders cross the bridge at the end of the year.
An important element to ensuring smooth transitions for our students is making sure parents are informed about the upcoming stages their children will experience. To that end, we organize four transition meetings. Our first transition meeting took place in November for our eighth grade parents. Mr. Calkins, Head of Upper School, organized a program to talk about the dynamic four A’s of Holland Hall – Academics, Arts, Athletics, and Atmosphere. The last three transition meetings will take place in the second semester.
- First, in January, we welcome the Primary School Parents Council to meet in the Middle School. After a brief introduction of the program, we break up into small groups and take tours of the MS buildings. This year, we would love to have you attend this meeting on Wednesday, January 16, at 1:30 p.m. in the MS Lecture Center.
- In late February, we offer a second transition meeting for third grade parents. At this meeting, parents get to meet the fourth grade team of faculty, hear a little bit about the program, and get into the classrooms. This year, the 3rd to 4th Transition Meeting will take place on Tuesday, February 26, at 7:00 p.m. in the MS Library.
- In late April, we hold a transition meeting for fifth grade parents. At this meeting, parents hear from the sixth grade faculty about the program and learn strategies on how to support their children becoming independent learners. This meeting will take place on Monday, April 29, at 7:00 p.m. in the MS Library.
We hope parents take advantage of these opportunities. It’s always a joy to see parents who have had older students experience the transition previously. Not only do they get to see how the program has evolved, they get to provide some perspective for parents who are experiencing the transition for the first time.
We know you have a choice when you consider the schooling options for your children. We are honored that you choose Holland Hall. We greatly value our partnership with you as we work together to educate and mentor our students. Sure, the middle school years can be filled with anxious times for students and parents as new experiences are seemingly around every corner. However, we aim to decrease that anxiety as much as possible by being transparent about our program, the expectations, and how we support families through these years.
If you have any questions about our program, please do not hesitate to contact us. Here’s to a great second half of the school year full of successful transitions!
Joel R. Bicknell
Head of Middle School
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