As spring approaches, my thoughts become increasingly occupied with planning for next year. The eighth graders will soon graduate and be headed to high school. All the other students will be making the transition to a new classroom with a new teacher and different academic objectives. Spring is when the students suddenly seem taller and older. Their hard work and success in the current school year are culminating in a readiness for change and new challenge. The teachers, encouraging continued growth, work to prepare them for the road ahead.
Perhaps the transition involving the most changes is from fourth to fifth grade. Students move from an elementary school format with one teacher for most of the day in the fourth grade to a middle school format with an advisory, a seven-period day of classes, lockers, and athletics. As a school, we know this transition is challenging for both the students and their families, and every year we reassess our current practices and look for ways to make this transition as seamless as possible. For example, we have the fourth graders visit and tour the middle school in the spring and introduce them to their teachers for the next year. We provide meetings with the parents to help them understand the details of what is coming up. The fourth graders are working on good organizational habits and a fifth grade Study Skills class is in place to continue supporting the development of these executive functioning skills. We also keep in close contact with the students and their parents at the beginning of the new school year.
Part of the fourth to fifth transition also includes looking at our academic offerings to make sure they are developmentally appropriate and a logical next step in each subject area. Our faculty spent a portion of the most recent professional development day taking a close look at the math and science curriculums in both fourth and fifth grade. Third and fourth graders receive a focused, and often individualized, math and science education. As we look ahead, we want to make sure that our fifth grade offerings in these areas are suited to the full range of our students’ abilities and provide the appropriate challenge for the newest middle schoolers. As a math and science geek myself, this is important to me personally. It is a complicated but rewarding endeavor, and it is in response to the question I ask myself every day: what is the best thing for the child? A school is, or should be, organic and able to adapt to changing circumstances. I have not been at another school that does this better than James River--expert faculty consistently assessing programs and processes to best serve your children.
Thanks, as always, for your support. We are truly partners with you. And, as always, never hesitate to let me know your thoughts.