In tune with transitions: Home and schools can work together to help students combat stress

Transitions, whether they be from school to school, grade to grade, classroom to classroom, or from public education to life beyond, are something that many partners in education are focusing on this year.

Indeed the Nova Scotia Federation of Home and School Associations, at its recent Annual Meeting, dedicated an entire session to the topic, focusing on the mental health aspects of transitions, which they identified as some of the most stressful events for students.

The Student Graduation and Transition Planner is the most significant new transition- related project in P.E.I. at the moment.  An initiative of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, the school boards, and partner groups, it is designed to assist students in the move from intermediate to high school and in planning their high school academic program with an eye to their future career and life plans.

The project is well-supported, and is backed up both by professional development for educators, and enhancements to the curriculum to support it. Students and parents are encouraged to explore all of the resources and supports available under the program, and to provide feedback, through their local home and school association, about their experiences with the program so that it can be continuously improved.

Transitions are also a challenge for home and school associations as it can seem like opportunities for parent engagement diminish as students enter later grades. In addition, the transition from elementary to intermediate to high school can leave parents without a connection to a home and school association they are familiar with.

To address this issue, the P.E.I. Home and School Federation is focusing on helping local associations bridge school-to-school transitions.

One way is to encourage the home and schools at all levels within each family of schools to engage in cooperative projects such as parent leadership grants, school health grants and the new Active at School grants.

Home and schools working together builds bridges for parents, educators and students and can be a tremendous help toward combatting the stress of many transitions.

Hand in hand with the increased focus on transitions comes an increasing realization of the importance of the role of mental health and wellness in teaching and learning: effective education is difficult or impossible when students and teachers are under stress.

The Integrated Service Delivery model, being tested this year at Three Oaks High School, is an attempt to reduce the confusion and duplication often encountered in seeking help by bringing government and community resources under one roof. This approach has proved successful in Nova Scotia, where it’s branded SchoolsPlus.

The P.E.I. Home and School Federation has taken a similar approach with the website, where parents, students and educators can find a comprehensive directory of community resources on issues including bullying, educational supports and substance abuse.

Concern about the broader issues affecting education – mental health, child poverty, nutrition – is not something new to the home and school movement: in February 1954 Federation founding president Helen MacDonald wrote, in these same pages, “In all our work as Home and School members we try to keep in mind that our first and fundamental objective is to promote the welfare of children and youth in the home, school and community.”

Earlier that month she participated, for the affirmative, in a debate at Souris High School with the subject “Resolved that people of today are happier than the people of 50 years ago.” The other side won the debate. The meeting concluded with a resolution that fish oil capsules be purchased from the Red Cross for the children of both Souris schools.