How to Handle Transition

I hope you are all enjoying your summers!  It’s been a great one for me and my family so far; we enjoyed a week on the coast in Connecticut and are preparing to head off to San Diego for another week on the beach.  How can I complain?

But in the midst of my summer break, I am dealing with a huge transition in my life.  This past spring I was promoted from high school counselor to head of our middle school.  My last post talked about this new role, and it is a great opportunity for me to continue developing both as an educator and a leader.  However, with that opportunity also comes the stress and anxiety of a new role.

During the past month I have begun moving offices, which also happens to be on an entirely different campus.  There are new facilities, people, procedures, etc. that I must learn in order to be successful in my new role.  And I can’t help but think this is similar to what many students are facing as they transition from elementary to middle, middle to high, or high school to college.  So I wanted to use this post to offer some tips on how to handle these times of transition.

Recognize the opportunity

Transition can certainly be scary.  We leave the known for the unknown and often times take a leap of faith that it will all work out.  However, transition also gives us opportunity for growth and development.

For students moving to a higher level of school or changing schools altogether, they may meet their new favorite teacher.  Or a new best friend.  Or find a true passion for a subject or extracurricular activity they never knew existed.  When things seem dreadful, just remind yourself that there are good things out there.  Sometimes you just have to be proactive to find it.

Find your new “team”

Transition can be lonely.  Especially if we are moving somewhere entirely new, like a new city or state.  I changed elementary schools numerous times as a child, and I remember that feeling of walking into a new classroom midyear.  It feels like you’ll never make new friends.

But I also remember how quickly I was able to find at least one friend on the first day.  Even for students who are more introverted, there are others feeling just the same.  The quicker we can find our new “teammates,” the better and happier our transitions will be.  I highly encourage students to join a club or sport as soon as they can.  It’s often times the best way to meet people.

Be open-minded

In my role as high school counselor, I had my own policies and procedures that I followed quite closely.  However, in my new position I am at a different campus.  Some of my previous policies and procedures aren’t realistic in the new building.  Therefore, I must be open-minded to changing my routine.  I’ll be much more successful if I adapt rather than fight.

This is true for anyone going through a transition.  People, processes, and locations may all be different.  It’s critical that students adjust their behavior according to the new environment.  Maybe your old school used Macs for all their computer classes but your new school uses PCs.  Obviously you’ll have to be open-minded to the differences.  It’s a minor example, but I think it applies to many areas.

Ask for help

In my experience, people generally want to help others who are dealing with transition.  I was so lucky to have a wonderful administrative assistant meet me on my first day with a set of keys for the building and detailed instructions on where everything was.  My new building is a maze, and I’d still be lost without her.  Even after a month I still have to ask where the pens are.

When you are dealing with a new situation or environment there will inevitably come a time when you need help.  Rather than stumble around looking for the answer, just ask someone.  Colleagues, parents, other students, and just about everyone generally want to help.  You’ll save a ton of time and frustration if you can ask for help when you need it.

Enjoy the ride

As much as I love to surf, it can be very scary just before taking off on a wave.  Staring down the face of a 10 foot wave as you are about to drop in can be panic inducing.  However, once I’m up and flying down the face, it’s exhilarating!  Sure, I may wipe out on occasion, but the thrill of the successful ride far outweighs the pounding I take on the wipe outs.

Transitioning is just like surfing; the bigger the transition, the scarier the take off.  There is always a chance we’ll crash just as we begin, but more times than not we successfully make it.  And there is no better thrill than riding a wave successfully.  Just remember to enjoy the process of transitioning.  It can be too easy to get lost in the challenges and not see the wonderful opportunities all around us.

As summer comes to an end, many of us will begin preparing for the transition to our next big challenge.  Transition is a part of life, and those who embrace them tend to be the most successful.  If you find that you are struggling with your own transition, consider talking to someone about it.  Parents, friends, coaches, mentors, and teachers will all have great advice to help you get through.

Good luck!