End of Year Transitions

By Natalie Irons
Associate Director of Instructional Coaching, UCLA Center X

For many, the 2022-23 school year comes to a close with continued times of transition. For example, you might be thinking whether you feel it is a post-pandemic world, or if schools really have been re-imagined, or if things are just back to “normal.” The end of the school year can provide a significant moment of reflection on wonderings like these.

My own daughter’s school year ending, prompted some surprising reflection. After an end of year luncheon, I brought home three girls to continue the celebrations into the evening, but I could see tears flood the back seat on the ride leaving school. The end of the year is a bittersweet road, and albeit, this end of year is a unique one for these students with the closing of their school, and yet the theme might be a familiar one to many of us as parents and/or educators. We move from the beginning of a school year to the end in an iterative cycle. Sometimes that ending doesn’t come quickly enough. Remember those years when you couldn’t wait for a year to end? Discovering that the student who gave you the greatest grief is now giving you the most gratitude! Relational growth is part of that cycle, too.

So, in the back seat of the car on the way to the beach, these girls recognized all that comes with the end of the year, especially when they are not returning. “So how are you feeling? Sad? Excited?” I offered to no one in particular. “It’s both,” one girl said. Maybe without fully understanding, they know that a transition is happening for them. They are each going to different schools next year after a year that began by bonding at a weekend retreat and thoughts that they would share four years of high school together. And now, 10 months later, they are experiencing an ending and beginning all at once.

Paradoxically and true, a transition is really a cycle of endings and beginnings. William Bridges author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, wrote that transitions are not just about changes. They are “the inner psychological [processes] that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the new situation that the change brings about.” While I have my own thoughts and feelings about the end of this school year, I am clear that each student, including my daughter, has their own process of understanding what they are losing, what is over or will be left behind, as well as what they will hold onto in moving forward.

It is in a “neutral zone” or in-between stage of the transition of change that people have the opportunity to see creative, innovate solutions and ideas that were unavailable before the change. Coaches might know this as a flexible state of mind, a space of thinking that allows us to see options and possibilities, moving beyond the finite boundaries of our perceptions of how things are and must be. Coming back to these incoming 10th graders sitting in the back seat, and the thought that this concept of transition might be hard to explain to them, we just turned on their favorite happy song and laughed through the tears.

As you consider your own place of possible transitions, what might you be letting go? What might be a loss? What are some of the things you are transitioning away from and moving towards? How might you balance both the “goodbyes and greetings” toward a new beginning?

Enjoy a restful summer break!