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How You Can Support The New Kid In Your Class

by Sara Boehm

“It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

5 Ways You Can Support The New Kid In Your Class

It is not uncommon to have new students in the middle of the school year.

These students are often new to an area–new city or state, for example. In the coming months, you may have some students joining your class(es) who are new to town. As you can probably imagine, the first day and even the first few months into the school year can be rough for a new student. Learning to navigate new hallways, making friends, finding ‘their place’ amongst established natives, adjusting to the curriculum… there is a lot of anxiety and pressure during this transitional time, and there is equally a lot you can do to help ease the process of settling in. That first day at school doesn’t have to be a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day!” Here are the top 5 ways you can help out “new kids” in your class—let the countdown begin:

1. Team-Building Games

We can all envision that scene from any TV show or movie where a new kid arrives in class: the dreaded moment where the teacher asks him to introduce himself in front of everyone. Many people dread public speaking, so it’s best not to add this dimension on to an already stressful first day. Let the class know that new faces are always welcome in your classroom, and team-building games are an excellent way to do so.

2. Group work

Teachers have the ability to create powerful in-class teams and can strategically place a new student with other students who will be welcoming, have common interests, are inclusive, and will show her the ropes. From in-class group work to team assignments and projects, to helping with homework, there are opportunities to advantageously include the new student with those who will help her transition. You may even consider encouraging certain students to lead the charge in helping out the new student. This opportunity is just as much about assisting those new to a situation as it is teaching current students the value of reaching out to those in need.

3. Seating placement

Similarly, try to seat the new student near or around other students who are helpful and welcoming. Though a small, seemingly logistical matter, seat placement creates opportunities either for engagement and comfort, or detachment and isolation. If the seating chart has already been established, place him in an open seat and then consider a mid semester/quarter/year re-organization to shuffle students around (this will help newer students continue to acclimate and also has the added benefit of potentially enhancing learning opportunities for all students).

4. Lunch hour

The first lunch hour can often be the most stressful time in a new student’s day. Its often unstructured and social nature can bring anxiety and stress. Who will I sit with? What if I have to sit alone?

If your class happens to coincide with lunch hour, give your new student the “scoop” about how to get around at lunch. What time it begins and ends, what her options are regarding where to sit or what she can do if she feels uncomfortable (e.g. can she ask for a pass to the library and head there instead?). Any information you can give her will mitigate some of the unknown and help her create a plan. And if you feel comfortable doing so, encourage a few students before lunch to reach out to the new student and ask if she would like to sit with them! Inclusivity goes a long way to help welcome new students in those first weeks of settling in.

5. Curriculum gaps/class level placement

If you are able to meet with the parents of the new student ahead of time, do so. Otherwise, find out from the student or their school counselor the level of their previous class placement. Many schools differ in the order in which they cover curriculum, so even if the student is placed at the correct level, there still may be gaps in knowledge. Touch base with the student periodically to see how he is handling the workload and information, and encourage questions at any time.

Watch his performance to see if you think he would benefit from additional instruction or tutoring. If you think he was placed at a level too high for his current abilities, consider options to place him in the correct class. Alternatively, what can often happen during a move is that high performing students get placed in lower levels at the new school in order to ‘prove’ that they are, in fact, high performers.

This can be both frustrating to the student as well as a factor in potentially falling behind at their current level as they are forced to advance back to the correct level, all the while missing out on important lessons. While this placement process may not always be seamless, when it is handled in an encouraging and supportive way, it will greatly benefit the student’s future academic performance and ambitions.

Before the year begins, think about what small steps you can take to ease the transition for any incoming new students you will have over the coming months. And share any stories or tips you have that have worked for you in the past in the comments below!

Sara Boehm is author of The Essential Moving Guide For Families and other titles in its series. Boehm has lived the world of corporate relocation, moving 12 times as a child and as an adult. She empathizes with all who are going through the moving process, and works with companies and individuals to assist those whose lives are being disrupted by relocation. She received her MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and presently lives in the Los Angeles area and runs Essential Engagement Services.

How You Can Support The New Kid In Your Class; image attribution flickr user fairfaxcounty