By Vejay Steede
Change is constant. Adjusting to new routines and environments is an intensely essential skill for human beings. Getting back to school is all about learning how to manage dramatic life changes and resetting attitudes, habits, and motivations. That’s right; there’s an indispensable life lesson imbedded in the very process of going “back to school.”
Coping with new people, new schedules, new buildings, and new classrooms can be onerous at times, but there are very definite ways to alleviate the stress of the unfamiliar and find comfort in this strange newness. Perhaps the most well versed ‘adjusters’ to this newness are teachers themselves; professionals who’ve spent most of their lives learning the ins and outs of the academy.
We asked some veteran educators for tips on getting settled into a new school, schedule, and routine with minimal stress and, hopefully, no lingering trauma.
After two decades teaching Science at the Middle School level, Mr James knows a thing or two about how to settle into a new school year. Mr James testifies that, “A new school year promises many new experiences, new friends, new teachers and a new environment, but most of all it provides you with new beginnings.”
Speaking mainly about the often-awkward transition from primary school, where one teacher leads a class through all the core subjects, to middle school, where students must travel from class to class and teacher to teacher to complete their daily schedule, Mr James waxes positive.
“The great thing is that you are starting on a fresh page, so make the most of it. No matter how your primary school experience was, your middle school experience can be that much better.”
Mr James goes on to provide a few tips to help new middle-schoolers navigate the unfamiliar waters they’ve been cast into:
“Any questions? Ask your homeroom teacher. Middle school is new, with different classes that can have you travelling all over the place. Don’t be afraid to ask your homeroom teacher for help with your new schedule or class locations. They are there to help you, feel free to ask for help or clarity.
“Be organized. Unlike primary school, where you basically had one teacher, middle schools have a variety of teachers teaching a variety of subjects. It is important for you to be organized.
a) Get a file folder to keep your books and handouts in.
b) A planner will help to keep track of all those assignments and events. Start practicing with a planner now to become familiar with how to track events and dates.
c) A pencil case will help you to have all your pens, pencils, crayons, and scissors, so that you know where they are when you need them.
d) Make two copies of your class schedule so you know where you need to be and at what time.
“Don’t Panic! The middle school campus is bigger than your primary school, you may get lost. There will be many new faces along with old familiar faces. They key is not to panic. You will get used to everyone, and the new layout of the campus. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You will be uncomfortable at first, but it will get better.
“Get rest and good nutrition. A lollipop and a bag of chips is NOT breakfast. Staying up all night to play Fortnite or to like your friends’ pics on Instagram is great for the summer, but when school starts, let’s take care of ourselves. A sleepy, unfed body does not help you to be successful. Get in early, pack a good lunch, bring fruit and water and let these healthy choices fuel your day. Leave the chips and candy for the weekend.
“Have Fun! Middle school is about exploration. Science experiments, cooking classes, woodwork, going on the sloop, snorkelling with BAMZ…ENJOY IT! Do your best but remember to get involved and have fun, all while learning.”
Ms Butterfield, another educator with over two decades of experience, provides more relationship focused advice to students entering a new learning environment for the first time: “Make choices and seek environments that positively impact and benefit you.
“Remember you are only responsible for you, as you can only control you. Build a positive friendship with at least one caring safe adult in your school that you can go to for assistance. Remember you have an advisor, year level team leader, counsellor, Educational Therapist/ETA team and Learning Support/ Para-educator team in your new school, they are all there to assist you in navigating safely and productively.
“These persons will assist you in navigating safely within your new environment. They may assist you in recognizing the tools you already have within yourself, and if need be, expose you to more specific tools you may need to navigate challenges you will come up against academically, socially, and emotionally. Again, find at least one trusting adult who you can rely on to help keep you safe.”
Turning to the potentially overwhelming schedule that comes with a whole new school adventure, Ms Butterfield offers the following:
“The most important thing to consider when adjusting to a new schedule is to ask yourself ‘How will I best remember my schedule?’ Once you know this answer then you can create or seek assistance in creating a schedule that supports your memory style. The schedule can be visual (posted with images that represent each subject), auditory (phone calendar with soft sound timed reminders), or kinesthetic (a hand printed schedule that has sequential days and times in just words and times or pictures with words and times). Place a schedule in your bag, one in or on your desk, one in your locker or homeroom class.
“Take note of the time allotted for routes and distances between the classrooms. Organize your required books based on the day’s schedule, place them in a waterproof bag and in your school bag the night before. These preparations will assist in ensuring an easier transition when navigating your new schedule. Remember you can always change the presentation of your schedule as you need.”