Transitions are big news in academic circles these days. I was invited recently to sit on the organizing committee for an international, cross-disciplinary conference on transitions to be held at the University of Strathclyde either next year or in 2007. (I'll make sure it is announced on CYC-NET nearer the time). I was also at a major education conference a couple of weeks ago and again a number of the presentations focused on the theme of transitions. I think the original impetus for interest in transitions in educational circles probably stems from concerns about how to best manage children moving from pre-school to school, from primary to secondary school or from school to work or further education. In many respects moves of this sort aren’t necessarily transitions at all. They’re changes and fairly universal and predictable ones at that. The notion of transition goes beyond the actual change to encompass how we as individuals (or perhaps collectively) process that change. Transition is emotional and experiential as much as it is structural.
At the same time as I’m becoming aware of increasing academic interest in transitions, I’m undergoing a significant transition of my own. This week, I moved from the Glasgow School of Social Work to my hometown University of Edinburgh.
I can chart a range of emotions attached to the move. There was initial ambivalence about whether or not I should apply for the job. The decision to do so introduced its own dissonance – could I ever go back to the way things had been before, even if I didn’t get the job? There were very mixed feelings on being offered it. On the one hand it felt pretty affirming to be offered the post. On the other it brought sadness, marking the realization that I had to move on from a place I had been very happy over the previous five years. I was giving up a job as director of the MSc in Advanced Residential Child Care, that I loved.
Having made the decision to accept the job there came a gradual process of beginning to see the advantages and opportunities of my new situation. But in any successful transition you also have to hang on to what has gone before and, at a fairly primitive level, to who you are. In many respects this move has confirmed for me who I am professionally. I am shifting the location of where I will be working. I am moving to a department of social work where residential child care has not been taught in any meaningful way in the recent past. Yet I am going there, intent on spreading the word for child and youth care and confident enough to assert, “I am a residential worker”.
My transition is made easier too in being reassured in what I leave behind in Glasgow. My colleagues Laura and Graham are taking over responsibility for the Masters programme. It will go from strength to strength. So for me it’s a change, but also a transition, and hopefully one that I can move forward from despite some regrets and uncertainties.
Of course, I won’t be the only one experiencing such emotions just now. Many first-time readers of CYC-NET will have embarked on new studies over the past month. For some, this may entail major career and life changes; for others, perhaps, moving away from home for the first time. Inevitably you will encounter a whole range of emotions. I hope you can embrace the opportunities presented by these transitions whilst hanging on to that which is important in what has gone before.
It would do no harm to try to process some of the feelings you have at this time. For fundamentally, child and youth care workers are transition workers, working with youth as they move between places and stages in their lives. Welcome to the child and youth care community, a community of transition workers.