Ask the School Psychologist...|
by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.
Moving to a New Town and School
Summertime promises vacation and leisure time in most families, but is often a time of transition, too.
Q: We're moving to a new town this summer. Our son, who is entering the fifth grade, will be placed in a (5-8) middle school where students are placed in academic tracks. What are some of the steps we should take to insure appropriate placement and a good start in his new school?
A: Even under the best of circumstances, moving can be as traumatic as divorce, separation or a death in the family, because it disrupts everything: schooling, friendships, employment, medical care, community connections and familiar daily routines.
Our family moved several times while our children were in school, and each of us handled it differently. Unexpected adjustments are inevitably required, but there are many steps parents can take to smooth the transition.
- Move in the summertime, if possible, so your children can start the new school year with everyone else.
- Request placement testing in all subjects that the school teaches at different ability levels. Curricula from one town or state to another can differ significantly. If academic difficulties surface, look carefully into the causes. Your child may be scoring poorly in math, for example, because he is expected to know a skill he was never taught! Ask the teachers to pre-test your child at the beginning of each chapter in subjects requiring cumulative knowledge (like math and foreign languages), so steps can be taken to fill knowledge gaps.
- Be sure the new school has received all old school records, such as grades, standardized test scores and details about special programs or services your children require.
- Begin making social connections in your new location immediately, through such initiatives as church membership, summer youth programs for the children (sponsored by schools, YMCA, YWCA, clubs, local colleges or sports teams) and introduction to the neighbors. The first days of school will seem less foreboding if your children know they'll see a few familiar faces there.
- Visit both the district office as well as the school before the academic year begins. Pick up as much information as you can, including curriculum outlines, summer reading lists, teacher, student and parent handbooks and a school district calendar. Schools might not be staffed during the summer, but most district offices are open year round and publish considerable information about individual schools and the district as a whole.
- Arrange for a guided tour of the new school before the first day of classes. Your children will appreciate knowing where the office, cafeteria, bathrooms, gym, music and art rooms are and, most importantly, where their new classroom is.
- After the school year begins, volunteer at the school and attend parents' nights and teacher conferences. Be sure teachers know how to reach you, at work or at home.
- Maintain contact with old friends. We moved once when our son was in the fourth grade. He left a best friend behind who had practically become a member of the family. They stayed in touch over the years and now, as young adults, live in the same town again, where they have resumed their friendship.
- Last but far from least, revel in your family's new adventure!
Preparing children for moving to a new town and school:
Family Roundtable discussion of moving:
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Gazette Articles by Beth Bruno:
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