I was once the new kid in class, and that was not fun. I had just moved from Accra, Ghana to Adelaide, Australia. Of the many things that made it a horrible experience, a couple stuck in my brain:
1. Nobody in my class knew where Ghana was and upon realising it was in Africa, proceeded to ask me whether people wore clothes there in all seriousness.
2. One of the teachers who introduced me to the class saw that I was Asian and so tried his very best to make “Jamie Chiu” sound as Chinese as possible. “We’ve got a new student to join us, Jing Mee Chewy”. I think that was what he was saying. It’s a funny story now, but to a 14-year old, I wanted to die right there on the spot.
A couple days ago, I gave a workshop to a group of teachers and one on of the feedback forms, one of the teachers left behind a question which I had wished my former teacher had given thought to.
“A new student that I do not know very well and is also new to the school is behaving in a reclusive way, doesn’t seem to have many friends but does not present any other behaviours. What is the best way to approach this student and situation?”
Adjusting to a new school is a scary experience and many students resort to the not-so-useful tactic of “I’ll just wait for people to come talk to me”. What ends up happening to that student is eating lunch in the library and walking around aimlessly but pretending they have somewhere to go and someone to meet.
Teachers are a life-saver when it comes to helping students adjust (and I’m always so happy to meet teachers who care so much about their students! Yay!).
So what can a teacher do to help a quiet and reserved student adjust to a new school and make some new friends?
Make it a group effort!
Most students would say that they are open and welcoming of the ‘new kid’, so sometimes it’s really just about facilitating that process. Assigning students to work in groups is a great way for the new kid to meet fellow classmates and make new friends.
However, it’s important to make sure that students are not just forming groups with existing friends — otherwise, the new student might be left hanging out awkwardly in the back of the class hoping to make eye contact with someone…
One idea is to present to students 5–10 band names and having them pick their favourite one. They then get into groups based on that. This way, the new student will be in a group with other kids who have similar music taste (great bonding material for new friendships!). Extra points of the bands are from the 80’s, oh yea.
Talk to the student.
Show an interest in his/her life! Find out what talent they have (maybe they’re a famous Reddit-celebrity), just get to know the student. Having worked as a school counsellor for many years, I cannot begin to tell how much students love getting extra attention from a teacher.
I would tell them a hundred times that I thought they were smart, but they’d say “Well, it’s your job to be nice to me….” But as soon as Mr. Jackson makes an off-hand comment about them being too smart for the class, they beam for days!
So trust me when I say, students love positive attention and care from a teacher! It truly makes them feel special.
You don’t need a cape to be a hero. You just need to care.
— Kid President
I think everyone can attest to how much influence teachers have on us when we’re young — just like how my former teacher had mispronounced my name, I am pretty sure I’m remembering that for the rest of my life. So I’m really glad this teacher asked this question, because it shows he/she cares.