Preparing students for change

By Greg Whitby, 5 February 2020
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

Being ready for the school year also means being ready for change, whether it’s new challenges in the classroom or playground politics. I think students with a disability can teach us a lot about supporting all students in dealing with change.

As the Summer break came to a close, most of us started to wind back the sleep-ins (or make the most of them). The big changes of routine required at the end of the holidays can be a particular challenge for some students with disability. This means that a more gradual transition back to routine is needed over a longer lead-in.

A really useful strategy favoured by families of students with disability is using stories and pictures to help students settle in. This can include showing them photographs of their school, classroom, teachers and classmates. It’s a great way to support a smoother transition and help them know what to expect in a new or changed environment.

Many of us read our kids books about big school before they start kindy. This simple way to support students in thinking through some of the things that are part of the experience of school shouldn’t stop when they start.

Sometimes we share our own memories of school with older kids to help them along. TV shows and books that deal with tough topics like friendship and peer pressure can also be a talking point. In disability education, we call these ‘social stories’ and use them to help students develop their social skills.

Adjusting to the new school year can be a stretch for many students. Some really struggle to get used to a new classroom teacher, a fresh approach to homework or catching up with other students after the holidays. Students with disability often need even more preparation for changes including new expectations and rules.

This is a shout out to all the parents and carers who put a lot of thought into what school is like for students, and the teachers who do the same. Responding to their needs with patience and sensitivity will set them up for success as learners and in life.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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