I have taught intermediate grades all 12 and a half years of my special ed teaching career and I have always had at least a few 5th graders ready to move on to middle school.
Cue the questions, crying, and worrying...and not from the kids! I'm talking about the parents. I can say this as a teacher of 5th graders and as a parent to a middle schooler; transitions are hard. Many of my 5th graders I get to have for 3 years, so I really get to know them and their parents by the time they are ready to head to the middle school. It makes it tough on all of us to let them go. Take heed, mamas, they will be ready. Middle school is like the great unknown, plus there are multiple classes and LOCKERS!! How in the world will they make it over there!?
Here are a few tips that can help you (as a teacher) make it easier for the parents and students that are moving on to middle school:
1. Set up transition meetings
In my school district, I like that we are required to hold transition meetings on all special education students that are headed to our sister middle school. Several people are involved in this meeting, including, regular and special education teachers from the elementary school, related service providers, a special education teacher from the middle school, the parents and a chairperson. At this meeting we are able to talk to the parents about their concerns about middle school, speak about how the special education department works at the middle school, and update the IEP as necessary.
2. Transition Letter & Survey
Prior to the meeting, send home I send home a transition survey for the parents to complete along with the notice of conference. This survey allows parents to get their questions and concerns to me prior to the meeting just in case there is something I need to find out an answer to before the meeting takes place. (I have included a link to my letter and survey at the bottom of this post)
3. Transition At-A-Glance
Our middle school special education team meets with 3 different elementary schools in our district. Before we have the meeting I complete a Transition-At-A-Glance form on each of my students to give to the middle school special ed. team. After meeting on so many different students from different schools, I'm sure that it becomes a little overwhelming to keep everyone straight. Our middle school sister school is great about keeping notes on our students and keeping the students best interests in mind, but I feel better sending off my kiddos when I know I have supplied the new teachers with something they can look back on. (I've also included this at the end of the post)
It's hard on all of us to take a next step, to go somewhere new, to close a chapter and start a new one. I read something recently that says (and I'm paraphrasing) that a new beginning cannot come without an ending. Middle school is a time full of new beginnings and elementary school does have to come to an end to make this transition happen. My best advice is to just breathe. Be present in the change and look for the good in what is to come.
If you are one of my 5th graders parents and you are reading this, then this next part is for you:
I love your kids. I have watched many of them grow for three years now. I have had them since our school opened and they were third graders. They have come such a long way and have made tremendous growth. I cannot wait to sit with you on our transition meeting day and tell you how much your kid means to me and how much I am going to miss them. I'm fighting back tears as I type this, because I have so many memories of what your baby was like just 3 years ago or even what they were like at the beginning of this year. This group of 5th graders will forever have a special place in my heart. They were a new beginning for me, as I began teaching in a new school district and in a brand new school. As this chapter closes for them and for me, I want you to know just how big of an impact they have had on my life. I love your babies, your families, and I will miss them as they head on to bigger and better things. This group is going to do great things! I love them and miss them already.
Now...if you have stuck around through my personal letter and read my heart...here are the templates I promised :)
Transition At A Glance