Several years ago, when I lived in Boston, I attended yoga classes on a daily basis. While there are many lessons that I learned from these classes, one has stuck with me and proven important to apply in both my personal and professional spheres. I remember my yoga teacher commended each of us for holding our positions often. She also made a point of reminding us to fully experience our transitions from pose to pose. She did not want us to rush or avoid the feelings that can come from transitioning. My teacher named for all of us that transitions are particularly difficult, even for those of us who think we do them well.
I was a novice teacher when I learned this lesson. I recall feeling as if a light bulb had just gone off in my mind and thinking that I had to make sure I shared this insight with my Director of Special Education and my mentor so that they knew. “Our students must be struggling with transitions and we may not even realize it!” I declared. Of course, they already knew about this information and were delighted to hear that I had finally discovered it for myself. I now realize that it is not just our students who can struggle with transitions, but the adults in their lives as well.
Transitions can be large and small. Significant and insignificant. As in life, there are many kinds of transitions our students experience in school. Mini-transitions occur from one activity to another within a given period. Small transitions occur when moving from one period to the next. Larger transitions might be Monday mornings when a student returns from the weekend and has to transition back to life at school or on Friday afternoons when a student leaves the weekday schedule for a change of pace over the weekend. And, even larger transitions occur as students leave for and return from vacations. No matter the size of the transition, each of these includes a possible change in location, the people with whom one interacts, social dynamics, understood social etiquette (both implicit and explicit), and more. While one transition might seem small and insignificant to someone, another person may recognize the transition is small and, yet, find that very same transition incredibly overwhelming.
In our Middle School, our faculty make a point of thinking about the role transitions, both big and small, play in our students’ experiences. One of the ways in which we help students readjust to school after returning from a vacation is to review with students our classroom and our Middle School expectations. This helps students recall the proper social etiquette they should follow in each of their classes, in the different physical spaces of our school, and in the during the different programmatic features, such as Kabbalat Shabbat, that are part of our weekly schedule.