It was top of mind that 4th grade transition in our district is the first time that families are mixing together in one school. Traditionally, we had approached this milestone with one-way information provided by the educators to the parents. We wanted to change that and make it a more joyful, productive and unifying experience for everyone.
Our school has homerooms, and teams, so when families checked in to the event, the students learned which of the four groups they were assigned to for their upcoming 4th grade team. This gave parents, teachers and students a chance to meet and get a head start on knowing those on their team.
The teachers wanted the welcome event be held on a Sunday as this is the day that families are often together with fewer conflicting commitments. The event was staged outside where there was plenty of room for the teams of students to participate in activities and challenges, including a school banner that everyone signed. While children played and got to know one another in the process, the parents had the chance to meet and talk.
The parents left with some school information, but also feeling more comfortable and confident about the transition.
We replicated the 4th grade welcome event in the succeeding year, again on a Sunday, and had nearly all of the 4th grade teachers volunteer to attend. The teachers had felt the positive impact during the school year and increased connection with families and parents.
Having seen the value of focusing more creatively on 4th grade transition, we iterated to revamp the next big milestone, the transition from 6th to 7th grade. Again, we held the event on a Sunday and incorporated some changes, lessons learned from prior experience. More than 50% of the 6th grade class was in attendance. An iteration of the 6th grade send-off is already on our radar.
Having parents on your team is invaluable. They gave us credibility when they conducted empathy interviews to learn about the needs of our community. We talk a lot about partnering with parents but sometimes we don't really partner. Sometimes we dictate to the parents, and vice versa. Slow down and really partner and build trust. Have really honest and authentic conversations.