By: Neeti Sarkar

As the school year comes to an end, there are plenty of bittersweet goodbyes to say. To retired staff, faculty moving on to different positions and places, fifth graders going to middle school, and of course, in international schools like mine, and to students who are leaving for a different city/country.

Transitions come with a mixed bag of feelings and as school counselors, we must support our leaving students through the process. In my experience, one way to effectively support these students is to host a Leaver's Club for them. Wondering how to go about hosting one? Read on to know what I typically do.

Doing it grade-wise or combining two grades, based on the number of leaving students, will ensure you save time. Facilitating the group over four weeks, with each session lasting not more than 30 minutes, is another way to manage your schedule better.

Session 1

In our first session, the focus is on acknowledging feelings with the intention of validating students; emotions about transitioning to a new school. A feelings check is what remains a constant in this group. I also make sure to explain to these students why I'm meeting them. SEL books are a great way to facilitate discussions that can be hard and process feelings that can be overwhelming. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst is my go-to in this introductory session. If time permits, I do a drawing activity with them so they can express how they are feeling about this move, what they are going to miss about our school, and what they are looking forward to.

Session 2

Week 2 is focussed on two aspects - finding out about each group member's new school/new country (I usually have students put a pin on a world map to show where they are moving. The main part of the session is to help students find support during the transition. I usually ask students to brainstorm a list of supportive resources that they can access during their transition to a new school. This could include friends, family, teachers, counselors, or even online resources and we compile a master list that they can refer to at any point.

pin the country activity

Session 3

Now that these students know who they can reach out to for support, it's also important for them to learn and practice some coping skills. Week 3, therefore, is centered around teaching them to manage stress and anxiety during the transition. We usually spend this session practicing easy-to-remember breathing exercises, and even a guided meditation. We also work on creating our own 'calm down kit' or 'coping toolbox'. I allow students to fill a small box (that I ask them to bring in) to pick out items such as stress balls, coloring sheets, crayons, and small fidgets, that might be useful in helping them manage their stress levels. I make sure to include little handouts for them to refer to that have handwritten motivational quotes, etc.

Session 4

Finally, during our last session, I try to help students focus on the positive aspects of their upcoming transition and build excitement for their new school. Asking students to create a vision board or collage that highlights their hopes and aspirations for their new school has always worked quite well. It is important to encourage them to include images or words that represent positive things they are looking forward to, such as making new friends, joining a sports team, or exploring a new hobby.

Since this is our last session but there are a couple more weeks for school to end, I get their homeroom teachers to display these vision boards or collages in the classroom or hallway as a visual reminder of the positive aspects of the transition. Another activity I have students do in our last session is writing letters to a friend/teacher whom they are going to miss. The session can't end on a sad note, so I make sure we have a little goodbye party.

Transition: A holistic approach

While I may be responsible for running a club/ group like this, homeroom teachers make sure to have class send-offs and memory books organized for students who are leaving. Also, throughout the entire process, I make myself available for parents to drop in and have a chat with me if they need additional support.

Are you planning to run a Leaver's Club too? What are some ideas you have for it?

About the author: Neeti Sarkar is a Primary School Counselor at an IB school in Bangalore, India. Over the span of almost 10 years, she's worked with students aged 3-18, but enjoys working with the littles the most. Neeti's also a seasoned journalist, so when she isn't making behaviour plans, teaching guidance lessons, and supporting her school community in various other ways, she makes time for her other passion- writing.


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