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  • Writer's pictureKim Green

Thought Leadership - Transition

As the Head of School at ISHCMC, it is my privilege to work with a strong team of educators and support staff who are focused on constantly improving their transition support for our students, parents, faculty, staff, and families every day.

Transition is often seen as an event that happens at a specific time, for example, graduating high school or moving from Grade 5 to Grade 6. I view transition not as just the event but as the constellation of thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions in response to the changed or changing situations or environments we are part of. Therefore, transition is a gradual psychological and emotional process through which we as individuals, teams, and families go through to function, find meaning and have a sense of belonging in a changed or changing situation (Bridges, 1991).

The model above represents the constellation of thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions during transition. In a dynamic, rapidly evolving world, our students, parents, faculty, staff and families all engage in multiple transitions throughout their ISHCMC journey. Transition is complex, and as a school community, there are multiple transition points of school life, for example, arriving at ISHCMC, moving from grade to grade, moving from primary school to secondary school, moving from grade five to six, moving from our primary years' programme (PYP) to our middle years programme (MYP) and then to our Diploma Programme (DP), and leaving ISHCMC to move to another location. ISHCMC has a global reputation for the work we do to support transition, which is recognised through our commitment to wellbeing at the core of our mission and as winners of the Relocate Global Award for Support and Transition 2021.

The conversation about strengthening transition is significant and ongoing at ISHCMC and within our international school communities. However, it is also important for us to engage in a rich cross-sectoral dialogue transition through the lenses of assessment and belonging to support our students who are moving from international schools to universities worldwide.

As a leader of ISHCMC, a school accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS), I was recently invited to participate in the CIS School and University Leaders’ Summit in Melbourne, which created space for cross-sector dialogue, specifically about the transition from international schools to universities. This Summit brought together 40 educational leaders representing international schools and global universities from 19 countries. During the summit, through a series of provocations, our transition working group:

  • Articulated the key skills and attributes that international students require for a successful transition.

  • We shared ways to build schools that value inclusion, diversity, equity, and anti-racism.

  • Suggested ways that CIS could further build connections and collaboration between the secondary and higher education sectors.

  • Made recommendations for a peer review system to improve international student support services in higher education institutions.

  • Provided feedback on the draft model (set out below), which outlines key elements that schools and universities should focus on when supporting international students in their transition.

It was a pleasure to be able to build on the work that has already been accomplished by our transitions working group since 2021, for example:

  • Recommendations from students on how schools and universities can better support international students with their cross-cultural transitions to university.

  • The establishment of a youth advisory board so that the group can co-construct the model with students.

  • Development of a range of resources (accessed through the CIS Member Portal) that will accompany the model. These include:

  • a self-audit tool for schools,

  • a checklist for schools and universities setting out key steps involved in implementing effective transitions-care,

  • a list of questions that students can ask universities to gauge the level of support they provide to international students,

  • case studies showcasing effective practice amongst CIS members,

  • metrics for measuring the success of transition programmes in schools,

  • a range of activities and lesson plans that schools and universities can use with students to help them strengthen the skills essential for a successful transition,

  • an overview of key skills and competency frameworks that identify the key skills students need to thrive at and beyond university.

We know that managing transitions is vital for the mental health of our students and their families.  We know that strong transition support mitigates the impact of the stressors that can lead to mental health concerns, undermined protective relationships and lead to feelings of rootlessness, difficulties in forming identity and unresolved grief (Ota, 2022; Schaetti, 1996; Silverman et al., 1997).  We must build our students and families' agency and skills so that they can effectively let go and prepare for the new beginning.

At ISHCMC, we intentionally empower our students, parents, faculty & staff and families with strategies and tools to use through the transition process so that we can support individuals and families as they navigate the range of emotions and the stages of transition.  As a school community, we remain committed to supporting transition through:

  • bespoke student and parent workshops, panels and discussion groups,

  • support of buddies for students and the support of country representatives for parents,

  • orientation programmes that provide information and access to the school and community resources to our incoming families,

  • programmes to support outward transition for our departing students and families,

  • intentional connections between students and parents across the school continuum to support internal grade transitions,

  • facilitating strategies to support students and families through the transition process, e.g., Transition Journaling, building an RAFT, offering opportunities to engage in learning across campuses,

  • Connecting with and supporting our Alum. A recent opportunity whilst attending the CIS School and University Leaders’ Summit in Melbourne was to connect with our alumni from 2009, 2020, and 2021, as well as faculty from 2005 and 2022.  It was great to share stories and experiences.  Once A Rhino - Always A Rhino.

During the CIS School and University Leaders’ Summit, I proudly shared many protocols and practices we have developed and implemented at ISHCMC to support our students in their transition from school to university and support our students at many other key transition points in their school life.  Thank you to the Council of International Schools and Jane Larsson for this incredible opportunity to be part of the dialogue and make a global difference for our students and families.



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