It’s back-to-school time. This week guest blogger Lindy Buch, Ph.D., discusses transitions. She retired in June as the director of early childhood education and family services, after almost two decades with the Michigan Department of Education. Prior to joining the department, she was a preschool and preschool special education teacher and director, and faculty member in early childhood and elementary education.
I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions this week. We talk about transitions all the time in early childhood–how to help a group smoothly transition from one activity to another, from home to school and back each day, helping children move from one group to another. But I’ve been thinking about more than that.
School starts the day after Labor Day in Michigan, so summer vacation is finished. Teachers, of course, have been preparing for their new groups all summer. Grade promotions ostensibly happen at the end of the school year, but kids have the status of “rising” until the next school year actually starts–rising first graders or rising seniors–they’re in-between, not quite in the grade they’re going to, but all finished with the one before. Even in early care and education programs, kids often make transitions at this time of year–when the “big” kids make that grand transition to kindergarten, it makes space for those who’ve been in the 3-year-old group to move up to the 4s, and the transitions cascade down. Even in more stable mixed-age programs, some kids “age out” and younger children are enrolled.
Lots of transitions. We think about them, plan for them, see them for the growth the “promotion” represents–and still in every gain, there’s a little loss, a little nostalgia for what’s now just a memory . . . .
I got promoted this summer, too–that’s just how it feels! At first, it felt almost like graduation. My colleagues hosted a really lovely retirement party. There was a little bit of that transition angst–I know it was the right time to retire from the state Department of Education–but I don’t know that I can ever give up being an early childhood specialist. So, armed with my new business cards proclaiming myself an independent “early childhood consultant,” I felt like a “rising” retiree.
My husband Ray and I wanted to see our son and daughter-in-law in San Francisco. I thought we’d fly and maybe stay a little longer than we could when we were working. Then Ray said he thought we should drive–time not being a problem. He said he’d like to go from Michigan to San Francisco via his cousins’ place in British Columbia, because Barry had invited him to try out his new kayak. And we could see some more friends and family, and some national parks (some re-runs and some new ones). North, west, south, east–five weeks and 7,000 miles later–I’d have to say it was a perfect transitional activity.
Now it’s fall in Michigan, for all intents and purposes. Big 10 football started this weekend, and I’m not teaching either preschoolers or preschool teachers; or getting grant programs sorted out as I have for the last 43 falls. Instead, we’re still planning and preparing for a big transition. We’ll be on our way back to San Francisco in early October–this time heading south and west and then back north, and visiting more family and friends and parks on the way. But this time we’ll stay until the spring.
You see, the really big “promotion” came on June 29, while we were in B.C.: Violet Raizel Buch promoted us that day to the status of grandparents. We’ll provide “high quality early education and care,” as Violet’s nannies this fall and winter. (That was “we.” Lest you think I might be the only early childhood expert here, you should know that some of Ray’s experience as a clinical social worker/children’s therapist was as an infant mental health specialist. The only thing I’m actually better at is laundry.) There’s nothing “rising” or tentative or nostalgic about this status; it felt perfect the minute we held Violet in our arms. I knew I could never leave early childhood. This transition really feels like an upgraded promotion!