The transition from primary school to secondary school is a significant moment in every student’s life, marking the entry into a new school cycle with different characteristics and expectations. It is a change that certainly generates mixed emotions, from enthusiasm for new experiences to fear of the unknown. We have questioned ourselves since the creation of My Kid 0-10 Primary School about the meaning, importance and responsibility of preparing a child for the next stages of his or her journey, secondary school in primis. Always keeping the indications of the Piano Scolastico Ticinese (Ticino School Plan) as a guideline with regard to learning goals, we have immediately focused great attention on what is on offer in our territory and neighbouring areas in terms of secondary schools and the type of teaching methods adopted there. Also constant is the commitment of our teachers, who day after day accompany the thoughts and questions of students and families regarding the future and what awaits them ‘out there’.

To help us and support our ponderings, and above all to keep the ongoing dialogue with our families alive, including former ones, we submitted a questionnaire and some open-ended questions to the parents of the children who finished last year’s (2023) fifth grade at My School Ticino. The answers and feedback collected are an invaluable asset, food for thought and an additional incentive for the fine-tuning we constantly do for our educational offer.

The secondary schools chosen by our first ex-students are of all sorts: public and private parish schools in Ticino, public and private schools in Italy, international schools and one beyond the Alps. For each of our former pupils, it emerges that the primary school experience was enriching and positive. After a foreseeable, indeed necessary, period of adaptation, our former pupils experienced the adequacy and goodness of their own preparation, as well as their ability to adapt and be self-reliant. Some more, some less, with the individual peculiarities that characterise each individual and make him or her unique and special, the pupils already garnered generally very positive marks in their first semester report sheets. It is very nice for us to read among the families’ responses how the focus on the development of the individual, the encouragement of knowledge and critical thinking, the attention to others and the respect for environments and people have helped to forge self-confident, easy-going young pre-adolescents capable of fitting into the world around them with skills and qualities of which they are proud. The former students’ memories of their primary school were described as very joyful and comforting, full of meaningful relationships among peers and with teachers. Signifying this, on the last Wednesday before the end of the school year, the 4th and 5th grade teachers organised a convivial moment for their pupils and former pupils: by inviting former students for an afternoon together, they wish to create the first of other future moments of sharing and exchange between those who go and those who stay. The aim is always to keep alive the relationships, the exchange, the friendships created, as well as to nurture a valuable channel for dialogue and comparison in order to grow together, as an institute and as individuals.

In the light of the considerations we have gathered and what we have studied in depth on a theoretical level, we have summarised a few crucial points that in our opinion are fundamental for tackling the new course of study after primary school with serenity and joy: a generalisable discourse, valid for every student in transition between primary school and the higher cycle.

First and foremost, children must be prepared to understand the change that awaits them: the difference between primary and secondary school is delineated in terms of organisation, teaching methods, expectations and workload. Open discussions with parents and teachers should help children to imagine what awaits them, thus reducing any anxiety and nurturing an expectation in positive terms. Secondary school, it goes without saying, requires a more autonomous, organised and timetabled approach to studying. There will be an adaptation time, normal and to be respected, in which the pupil is led by the family and the new teachers to familiarise himself with the new system.

Then there is the relational issue: in secondary school, social dynamics and interaction between peers and with the adult of reference change. Learning to manage the new modes of relationship is a crucial developmental stage, very enriching for children moving from childhood to adolescence. Children must be encouraged from the outset, and perhaps even before they face the change, to communicate openly with parents and teachers in the event of difficulty or discomfort: a listening, open, non-judgmental, supportive climate is needed, one that is suitable for harmonious and complete growth in every respect. Listening and dialogue must also be able to offer emotional support, relieving stress or worry while reassuring and enhancing the efforts made and the results achieved.

It is always in dialogue and exchange, therefore, with children, families and teachers, that we can support the path of each individual student, with its own peculiarities, strengths or those to be strengthened. Support, gentleness and great care are the fundamental ingredients for tackling the obligatory passage: growing up is the most beautiful adventure and our children deserve to live it to the full, never feeling alone and certain that it is a joyful and enriching journey.

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