By now, the new school year has begun for just about every kid in the country. I experienced twenty-five of these beginnings and another five as a building principal. My new students always had certain things in common beginning with being nervous, at best, or downright afraid of being in my class. You see, for most kids, I was their first male teacher. Now, after I assured them that I wasn't a screamer and that we'd have fun while working hard, they relaxed. At least most of them did. I do have some memories that stand out from all of those beginnings, though. Some pleasant, some not so much.
On the first day of school, every adult from the bus driver to the cafeteria people, and all of the teachers that will be working with kids all share their rules. The kids are pretty much in shock at everything going on around them. They do, however, care about the bathroom. Where is it and what are the rules? My classroom rules, I thought, were pretty simple. I had bathroom tags that s student would leave on their desk when they went out of the room and, if it was an emergency, just get up and go. One year, though, a student had an accident the first day because he wasn't sure what constituted an emergency. So much for being clear. The second big ticket item on the minds of kids had to do with homework. Kids wanted to know how much would they get and if it would be hard. Other than assuring them I didn't give hours and hours each night, I did make it clear that I wanted their best work, always. That seemed fair, I thought, except that after about two weeks, a parent called to ask me if it was normal for their child to be spending three hours a night on homework- we're talking third grade here. It seems that this young man was taking my words to heart and redoing every assignment until it was perfect. As to "where are my friends", imagine what it's like to walk into a new situation and not recognize anyone, or at least be friends with anyone. It's sort of like having a new roommate in college or starting a new job. Most of us have been there so you can imagine what it'd be like for a kid. One January, when I was a principal, a father registered his kindergartener. The next day, his child's first in our school, the Dad pulled up to the curve, let his child out of the car, and drove off. Shame on him.
Hopefully, your kids or students are off to a great start! Helping them to be comfortable in their new surroundings certainly helps.