Have you ever wondered what the new students in your school will be like? Will they be good at math? Will they be able to navigate technology effectively? Do they have proper parental support and guidance at home? If these questions cross your mind, then you may want to conduct meaningful transition meetings for your incoming students.

Transition meetings are a great way to learn about the new students entering your school building. Transition meetings involve sitting down with the students’ counselors, instructors, principals, and other stakeholders (such as case managers)—and having a “real life” discussion about the students moving from one school to the next, whether it is from elementary to middle level, middle level to high school, or whatever your school district transitions are.

During these meetings, we can talk about our students and learn more about them that we don’t see based on the numbers. Anyone can pull standardized test scores, GPA, class rank data, and report cards. Gathering that type of data about a student is easy. But when this is the only information we have on our incoming students, we don’t have a full understanding of our students.

For instance, we may learn that “Johnny” did poorly in physical science last year and he is behind on credits to graduate. But if we miss the fact that his dad died in September of last year, and he had to take a part-time job to help his mother out with bills, we aren’t seeing the complete picture of “Johnny.”

To really know our students, we must have the tough discussions about student behavior, student choices, family dynamics, substance abuse issues, discipline referrals, and other outstanding issues that may impact student success. We must be more aware of “what happened to our students,” and focus less on “what is wrong with our students.”

Whether your school uses a trauma-sensitive school model, compassionate schools, multi-tier systems of support, or some other model—the bottom line is clear: we must look at the “whole” student (behavior, grades, family life, family support, etc.) if we are going to fully meet the student’s needs to help ensure their success.

Transition meetings should focus on what the student brings to the table, what we can do to help the student succeed, determine if the student needs a mentor or another responsible adult to turn to, and open the lines of communication between the school, the student, and the family.

If we look at the entire student (grades, scores, behavior, history, family dynamics, etc.), then we are better able to create a more active, engaging, and productive learning environment for our students. Remember, we are here for them—they are not here for us. We have to know what our students need so we can meet those needs and support students to be successful in school and beyond.

Do you really know your students? Could transition meetings help your school get a more complete understanding of each student?

Kelly D. Peters, EdD, is an assistant principal at West Fargo High School in North Dakota. Dr. Peters is starting his 27thyear in education, his 19th as an administrator. He is the 2018 North Dakota Assistant Principal of the Year. Follow him on Twitter @peterskellyd.

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