Most teachers know the feeling of meticulously preparing for the new year, only to find out at the last minute that a new student is due to start. How do you cater for a student you have never met? What are their specific requirements?
Even more challenging can be the students that start mid-year. How will it change the class dynamic? Have they come from a different country and require English language or other psychological support?
Regardless of the situation, it is the job of the teacher to do their best to make things work, helping the learner to settle, and feel safe and comfortable. Free from the stress and anxiety of an unfamiliar and potentially hostile environment, the new student in the classroom will be able to properly engage with the work. Here are seven ways to support the new kid in school.
Make sure they have the basic equipment to start
A common saying in teaching is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It’s desirable to set up new students with everything they need to start their first day, so they can dive in and participate as best as they can, without feeling that they are already disadvantaged.
Assign them a buddy
A tried and tested practice for new students, assigning the new kid in class a buddy for support in the classroom and playground can be a way to ease them into their new environment. The buddy should be chosen based on their reliability, confidence, and emotional understanding—it can’t just be anyone!
Book time with a support teacher
As mentioned above, there may be behavioural, disability, or language considerations to take into account. Assigning the new student a support teacher can help them get up to speed while giving them another trusted adult they can talk to one-on-one.
Meet with the parents
If possible, have a meeting with the parents as soon as possible. You can learn about the student’s background and any considerations that need to be taken into account when introducing them to the class; information that perhaps the student wouldn’t volunteer on their own.
Run some team building games
One of the best ways to form a bond with a group is to participate in some activity. Run some icebreaker games that allow the new student to interact with others without the pressure of any formal introduction.
Check in with them frequently
It is important for new members of the class to understand they can come to the teacher with any problems. Schedule some short informal catch-ups to give them a chance to air any grievances or ask questions they might not otherwise ask unless prompted.
Try not to put them on the spot
The classic American movie scenario where the teacher gets the new student to stand up and introduce themself to the class is generally not a great idea. Putting new kids on the spot can cause them to experience heightened anxiety and withdraw. Give them a chance to settle in without making them the direct focus of the class’s attention.
How to support students in a new environment
These are just some basic tips for supporting new students at school, but these must be adapted to the needs of the individual student. No two learners are exactly the same, with each child possessing their own unique personalities and complexities. As the teacher, it is up to you to use your own professional judgement and knowledge of the student to smooth their path into the classroom, navigating any difficulties as they arise.