Back to School Sadness: Student Challenges

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

Sometimes we get caught up in the hustle-and-bustle of starting a new academic year.

From teacher-training, photocopying, meeting new colleagues and lesson-planning; to designing curriculum maps and baseline assessments: the first few weeks of school can be very busy and stressful for teachers.

Q & A

One thing we must remain mindful of, however, is the mental and emotional health of our students at this time. 

Whether they are returning to school, starting at a new school, transitioning to high school or starting their first day at school; many of our learners will be feeling the pressure as the new academic year begins.

In this week’s article, I shall attempt to break-down the most common concerns, problems and stresses that kids have when starting school, along with some strategies that we can put in place to resolve these issues. 

With UKEdChat

#1. Nervousness

Nervousness is a common problem for new students, kids changing school and even students who have new teachers and new classes this year.

What can parents and teachers do to help?

  • Introduce the child to his or her new teachers before the new academic year begins
  • Check up on our kids each week for the first few weeks, and iron-out any issues. A simple one-to-one chat for 5 minutes is all it takes.
  • Remind them that nervousness is normal, and that lots of kids will be feeling nervous at this time too
  • Make it really clear to the child that he or she can come and talk to us whenever they have a question, concern or need help. This is particularly important for form tutors/homeroom teachers.

studying with com

#2. Getting lost

If the school has had new building work, or if kids are starting at a new school, they will take some time to find their way around.

What can parents and teachers do to help?

  • Don’t get mad if kids are a little late to class for the first week or so. Have sympathy – we’ve all found ourselves getting lost in new surroundings from time to time (shopping malls come to mind).
  • Use colours to highlight areas of the school on the students’ timetables. Building A could be in red and Building B in blue, for example. Black stripes for the ground floor, yellow dots for second floor and green swirls for the third floor. This could be a nice activity for kids on the first day back – get them to colour in their timetables based on location. 
  • Make signage really clear! Do all of the classroom doors have large numbers on them, with the teachers’ names and subjects? It still amazes me how few schools do this properly. It’s such a simple idea and is very easy to implement. 
  • Buddy up new kids with kids who already know the school. The buddy can help the new kid get around and get used to the school layout. 

graduation

#3. Making Friends 

This can be a major and all-encompassing concern for some students, and it seems to become more important the older the students get. Feeling alienated or being ‘left-out’ can be an absolutely heart-wrenching experience for some kids, and is in itself a form of bullying (more on that in #4).

What can parents and teachers do to help?

  • Work some team-building activities into the first day or two of the new academic year. Get the kids working together and talking together, and put them in groups so that they have to get along with another. A simple idea is a ‘treasure hunt’ around the school, where the kids look for important landmarks on campus (this helps with solving #2 – getting lost, too)
  • Schedule an outdoor learning adventure trip into the first half-term. A three-day trip to the mountains, or a water-themed snorkeling and beach activities camp can be perfect for breaking-down some of the shyness that students may have and is great for building new friendships. 
  • Again, a buddy-system can work well. Buddy the kids up with each other and schedule meetings with the buddy-teams to check how the kids are getting on. 
  • Teachers might want to increase the frequency of peer-assessment during the first few weeks, as this will encourage new students to work with their peers more frequently and can be a good way for kids to ‘break-the-ice’ with one another. 

sit n talk

#4. Bullying

It goes without saying, but it needs to be said: every school should have a zero-tolerance approach to bullying.

New students may come to a new school with peers that bullied them in a previous school. Some kids may be picked-on because of the way they look to other kids, the way they speak, or anything for that matter. Bullies will find anything and everything to capitalize on when being cruel and abusive to other students. 

Colorful classroom without student with board,books and globe - rendering

What can parents and teachers do to help?

  • Spot it. Address it. Monitor it. – Three steps that can change a child’s life, literally. Learn how to spot the signs of bullying, and always raise it with the relevant line-manager or senior teacher. Talk to the students involved about what’s going on. Don’t forget, and don’t let it go unchecked when the victim seems to be getting along just fine – meet regularly with your students to check how they’re getting along.
  • Read up: There’s tons of vital information out there about bullying prevention and strategies for schools and teachers. Good sources include https://www.stopbullying.gov/ and https://www.bullying.co.uk/advice-for-schools/
  • Provide training for colleagues in anti-bullying strategies. If you’re a school leader, then a one-day workshop on the subject for all staff members would be a worthwhile investment of time at the start of the new academic year.
  • Go through the school’s mission statement and rules with your students on the first day of the new school year. Maybe a whole-school assembly could be a good idea? Top of the list should be this – Bullying will not be tolerated at our school. We care for each other, we respect each other, we help each other. We never bully each other. It’s amazing how many schools do not start the new year with this message – yet it’s so vital!
  • Don’t assume that bullying doesn’t happen at your school. I have personally had a quite a few surprises in my career – working at what seemed to be happy campuses, only to find out that bullying had been happening ‘under-the-radar’. Victims often don’t have the confidence to speak-up. Creating a school atmosphere where students feel they can speak-up about these things is absolutely crucial.
  • Get a school counselor – it’s worth the money! This may be the only person that some students feel comfortable talking to. Get someone who’s fully trained and who’s amenable and approachable. 

#5. Language

The world is becoming more multi-cultural, with global net migration figures changing on a year-by-year basis. It is now more common for teachers to find international students in their classrooms than it has ever been before.

What can parents and teachers do to help?

  • Have patience. Take time. Speak slowly. Students who have English as an Additional Language may need more time to process information and respond than others.
  • Consider a cultural excursion/orientation programme for students new to the country. Day trips and seminars that showcase the cultural values of the host country can really help new students to integrate.
  • Put English language programmes on the T.V., with subtitles
  • Enable subtitles on YouTube and other video platforms
  • Use vocabulary games during lessons – these are great for all students, natives included. 

IMG_5938

cropped-facebook.png

richard-rogers-online

We welcome you to join the Richard Rogers online community. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for daily updates.

Latest hybrid

 

 

Advertisements

Author:

High School Science and Mathematics Teacher, Author and Blogger. Graduated from Bangor University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Molecular Biology and a PGCE in Secondary Science Education. Richard also holds the coveted Certificate in Mathematics from the Open University (UK).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s