At this time of year, my thoughts often turn to “next steps.” The first semester has wrapped up; our seniors have (for the most part) finished their college process; our juniors are beginning the senior leadership process and are taking the next step in their journey towards college; departments are finalizing course offerings for next year; and we made a change in the way that we did end of semester assessments.
The decision to do end of semester assessments in a different way created a swell of excitement, concern, and happiness in both teachers and students. Teachers were asked to reconsider their notions of cumulative assessment – both form and validity; students had to devise a different way of reviewing and preparing for those assessments they did have. Prior to “exams” some students expressed unease over having to take exams AND stay current with their classes; after, at least according to the students I have spoken with, most they felt that they much preferred this setup – although they were still busy, they felt less anxious. Several have also said that they enjoyed their Winter Break much more as they did not feel they needed to spend the two weeks studying for exams. Interestingly, the absence of our traditional exam week has lessened the feel of the transition from the first semester to the second.
Our juniors and seniors are on the cusp of even bigger transitions in their lives. Over the next several months, the seniors will begin their transition out of Wooster (without, we hope, succumbing to senioritis) and the juniors will begin their transition into the leadership roles on campus. While many of our students outwardly express the “I can’t wait” feeling, many also exhibit feelings of apprehension and disquiet as they finally come face to face with the transitions to which they have long aspired. It is important that we, as faculty and parents, give them the room to take those first tentative steps into this phase of their lives, while standing behind them ready for those times when they turn to us with fear in their eyes.
Transitions force us out of our comfort zones. Changes create excitement as well as anxiety. The challenge, and yet the key, is not to let that nervousness allow us to back away from something we know is right. It is in this place of tension that we develop a deeper understanding of ourselves, and gain the strength and courage to face the new things headed our way.