Modern education is tough on everyone involved. Teachers spend hours preparing lessons and marking work, whilst students find themselves studying multiple subjects at once and experiencing a high level of pressure throughout their school career.
Whilst the role of teachers is primarily just to teach, we are also supporters and leaders, helping develop life skills and help our students through their formative years. This becomes especially important during the major transition periods in the modern educational system, where students are often uprooted and moved to an unfamiliar environment where they must continue their studies.
In this short article, we want to investigate how we as teachers and as a society can help students more easily work through the biggest changes in their school career: the primary school to secondary school transition, aged 10-12; the secondary school to university transition, aged 17-19 and the university to placement transition, aged 19-21.
Primary to Secondary School (Aged 10-12)
Depending on where you are based, this transition will have different names but in almost all education systems, students experience and noticeable educational change around the age of 11.
From a developmental perspective, this transition is easily one of the most important. The majority of education systems across the globe mark this change by moving students to a new school building that is dedicated to secondary education, and along with this move, students are forced to make new friends in a completely new environment. This challenge is further amplified when considering that these students will have moved from being the oldest pupils in the school to the youngest, making for a stark shift in authority that creates an even more challenging atmosphere.
For secondary school teachers who are dealing with the new intake of students, it’s important to encourage familiarity and freedom. Students must become more independent, yes, but this doesn’t mean that they should receive less support. During the first term or semester, creating a familiar routine through early timetabling, as well as forming effective tutor/student bonds builds a feeling of security and safety, helping new pupils to settle into the new way of operating.
For a more detailed look at the primary to secondary transition, click here.
Secondary School to University (Aged 17-19)
By far the most talked about educational transition is the one which occurs between secondary school and university. This shift always demands a change in location and a complete shift in education style, making it challenging for almost all students.
This is further amplified by the complex application system and the stress of trying to get into a desired university or onto a desired course. During this application process is when teachers are in the best position to help their students relax and excel.
Alongside examinations, university applications are one of the most stress-inducing aspects of secondary education. Teachers and parents can help by supporting student decisions and avoiding cliché questions like, “What do you want to do?” Instead, we should supply options to the children and allow them to answer that question at their own pace.
Similarly, after making this decision, we can assist in helping them get into the University of their choice. This is especially important for high-flying students who undoubtedly put in lots of work at home, giving them less time to work on their application. This is further amplified by the fact that the best universities have the hardest application processes, so if your student or child wants to go to a prestigious place of study, redirect them to resources on how to get into Oxford University, or whichever establishment they’re targeting.
Encouraging students to read, research and discover the answers to their questions on their own by supplying them with reading material is also a brilliant way of avoiding the “overbearing parent” or “pushy teacher” stereotypes.
University to Placements (Aged 19-21)
Finally, we have the most forgotten of the educational transitions. Going from a university course to an industry placement is an optional part of most degrees, costing more money but offering much greater value. Moving into an internship or placement is invaluable for developing an understanding of the workplace environment and application of what students have been learning, but it comes with challenges too.
Having been in education for all 20 years of their life, many students find placement work a struggle. The shift in attitudes and environment is drastic and gone are the helping hands that would be there to guide them, even if they didn’t use them during their university career so far. For parents, it’s important to emphasise that going on a placement somewhere different doesn’t mean they should lose contact with friends and family. Encouraging the use and development of a support network is key for helping these students settle in during the first few weeks and excel over the course of their time on placement.
There are also countless online resources dedicated to stress on placements, all of which you can share with students who are struggling.
Hopefully, this brief guide has shed some light on how teachers and parents can support students throughout their school career. Above all else, discussion with the students about their problems is the best way to ascertain how you can help, if at all. Making assumptions is never the right approach. Communication is key.