The last couple of weeks at school have been an emotional rollercoaster of transition visits, reports, final assemblies and goodbyes.
At Big Bear’s school, they have a transition week and a half. The year 6 children have their taster days at high school, allowing each of the other classes to move up to their next teacher and classroom prior to the summer holidays. This is the second year they have done it this way and I think it’s brilliant. It is particularly useful for children who get anxious and who would normally spend the last days of the summer break fretting and staying awake at night worrying about school (Big Bear). It means that classrooms are familiar, us parents know where to drop off and pick up, the children know where to put their coat and bag, which day they have PE etc. It means that transition is not tokenistic (a quick half day) but structured, organised and well-thought out. The children experience the entirety of their new timetable, not just a fraction of it.
Big Bear has made a very smooth and surprisingly easy transition to year 3 and seems very happy about everything. I, on the other hand, cannot believe that my baby is a junior already! He was however, very upset when he found out that one of his Year 2 teachers was leaving the school as she’s full of fun and has really “got” him. I’m sad too as it means she won’t teach Little Bear and I think she would have been great with him.
By moving all of the classes up early, the Reception class becomes empty. This allows the Reception teachers to do a really good transition for the new starters too. As Little Bear is starting school in September, he too has been taking part in the transition fun. This has been his timetable:
Friday: 2hr visit to Reception class with parents (Grizzly did it)
Tuesday: 2hr visit in the morning without parents; afternoon at Preschool
Wednesday: Preschool with visit from the Reception teacher & TA
Thursday: Visit to Reception class over lunch time and for the afternoon
Friday: Leaving assembly at Preschool then home visit from Reception staff
Unlike when Big Bear was small, Little Bear is VERY excited about starting school and cannot wait to join his brother at “big school”. Consequently I knew that I wouldn’t need to peel him crying from my legs and that he would just trot in without a backward glance. It was his behaviour whilst he was there that I was most concerned about. However, apart from whipping his friend around the face with his coat whilst waiting for his afternoon session and fiddling with a few things he shouldn’t, he generally did really well.
During the home visit (which I somehow conducted with the builders also in residence), I spoke with Little Bear’s teacher whilst Little Bear showed the TA his bedroom. Somehow he managed to disappear from her, leading her to think he had come downstairs when in fact he had hidden somewhere upstairs. That gave her a bit of a fright as he was there one second and gone the next. I’m hoping it has illustrated his escapologist tendencies nicely!
Overall, although the transition was thorough, I don’t feel as though the new teachers have seen the full extent of Little Bear’s behaviour. They haven’t experienced growling, aggression or any significant refusals to comply which I’m sure they will, once he’s fully settled. However, the fact that the transition has been really positive is brilliant and should mean that everyone involved is feeling fairly confident about September.
Little Bear’s leaving assembly was quite possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. It was pretty entertaining watching the staff trying to shepherd 60 pre-schoolers on to a stage. One was dressed as an alien, a few were wearing bin bags (not too sure why), some had props. At one point, a girl on the front row lifted her tutu to scratch at her knickers. Little Bear was predictably the one who needed to sit right next to the teacher. He spent the first half waving at us, winking and blowing kisses and occasionally shouting out “that’s my dad. That’s my mum”. After a while we could see he was starting to get bored: he kept prodding his teacher and trying to get her to give him the microphone. Funnily enough she didn’t oblige. The staff had cleverly given him a big furry puppet to hold which distracted him a little.
It was lovely to see him stand up and join in with the others though. He joined in with some of the actions in songs and even did some Jolly Phonics actions and sounds which I wasn’t aware he knew. I was mainly just proud that he managed to sit through the whole thing and do roughly what he was meant to be doing; something he would certainly not have been able to do when he first started there. I realised how nurturing and constructive his time at preschool had been, how much I valued the staff there and how sad I was going to be that he was (we were) leaving them. There was a big lump in my throat and quite possibly some mistiness in my eyes. Ahem. I would need to collect myself before his last day.
The next end of term event was receiving Little Bear’s report (I already had Big Bear’s and wrote about it in Achievement). Overall it is very positive and focuses on what he can do and the progress that he’s made. It does mention a few times though that his performance on tasks is affected by his “listening and attention skills”, that he can “find it hard to concentrate”, that he “has his own agenda” and that he complies with adult direction “more frequently”(note, not ‘nearly all the time’ as he should). It is all true and I’m well aware of the issues but it can be disquieting nonetheless to read these things in black and white.
There is a lovely comment at the end that says how Little Bear likes to make other people happy and that his next teacher is really lucky to have him in her class. I know that the staff genuinely care about him and have become very fond of him during his time there. They have found it difficult that he is moving on to a different school and not continuing up to Reception in his current setting, with the rest of the preschool cohort. The reason he isn’t is because his preschool is in a different village from where we live. I could have sent him to our local preschool but I didn’t rate it for Big Bear and knew they wouldn’t be able to support Little Bear in the way he needed. I’m very happy that we chose to send him to a slightly further one and I do think that the school attached to it would continue to meet his needs well. However, practically it makes much more sense to send him to the school within walking distance that Big Bear already attends. Both boys will be happier if they go to the same setting too. Unfortunately that does mean leaving the connections we have made at Little Bear’s preschool.
On Wednesday we had to say goodbye. I came along at pick up time with a present and card for Little Bear’s keyworker, expecting a quick bye. I wasn’t expecting all of the staff to come out to wave him off and each cuddle him. Also (good job I was wearing my sunglasses) , I was really touched when they presented him with Chester, the Nursery cuddly rabbit who had been going home with the children for a night or two for them to take photos and record their adventures with and had been their buddy throughout preschool. Little Bear had brought him home fairly recently and had loved the responsibility of having him and taking him back. This time, the staff had tied a label to Chester and written a note asking Little Bear to keep him forever and to look after him for them. It was such a lovely and thoughtful thing for them to do and I felt they had really instinctively understood that it would help him with moving on; that Chester would be a tangible link between what had gone before and what was coming and that preschool wasn’t another abrupt and painful ending for him. It also showed me how much they cared about him and the fact that one of the teachers was teary too nearly tipped me over the edge. I very much intend to stay in touch with them though so I knew it wouldn’t really be the final goodbye.
Just as we were walking off, Little Bear clutching Chester to his chest, the staff shouted after us to ask if Little Bear could say bye to his friend. Now, when Little Bear first started preschool he had literally zero interest in the other children, in fact he sometimes saw them as a threat. It is only in the last couple of months that he has started to interact and play with the others. Even more recently he has started to form a proper friendship with one specific boy, who he talks about at home and who his teachers say is a good pairing for him. The other boy is quite shy but tuned in to Little Bear’s speech and able to translate for him. The fact that he is helping seems to boost his confidence whilst the fact that a peer understands Little Bear and can play with him properly is a great boost for him. So of course I said “yes”, they can say goodbye. The little man in question came running out of the gate at full pelt, Little Bear ran towards him and they had a huge hug. This tipped the crying member of staff fully over the edge and gave me a prick of guilt.
I was fully aware of the growing friendship and had been umming and erring over whether or not to get a note to the boy’s mum to try to maintain it. I don’t know the lady in question at all and it felt like I was really putting myself out there by approaching her. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it and could envisage all sorts of problems if we didn’t get on. So far I had taken the coward’s way out and done nothing, telling myself that he would make lots more friends and it wouldn’t matter. However, seeing them hug like that spurred me into action. I gave my name and number to a member of staff to pass on to his Mum. I don’t know if she will contact me (I don’t know whether I would if the roles were reversed) but at least I know that I have tried.
And there we were: school was finished. Just like that. I have no idea where the last school year has gone, time has never seemed to go this fast. Now we have 6 weeks of holidays to contend with… It is only day 2 and I’m already a little frazzled!