As I have been experiencing this, it's been a great reminder that every year, we have hundreds of students who are starting at a new school, in a new grade, and sometimes even in a new city or state (or country!). Transition can be challenging - how can we help our students with this change? Here are three things, based on my experience, that can make a huge difference!
1. Ask questions!
Asking questions can really go both ways. On one hand, it is obviously important to give new students the chance to ask their questions! Some of this can occur during regular classtime, but especially for those who are more introverted, it is invaluable to have a backchannel as well. This might look like notecards to write questions on, an invitation to email or leave a private comment on a learning management system, or even just a quick individual check-in. Giving them the opportunity to ask questions will help ease their concerns and build their confidence as they learn the ropes.
On the other hand, it is also important to ask them questions and give them the chance to share! Since they are probably spending lots of energy fitting into their new environment, it can be refreshing for them to get to share a bit of their background and experience, and you might just learn something from them as well!
2. A little encouragement goes a long way!
New students are confronted with uncertainty all day long. Encouragement is important for all students, but a little affirmation can make a huge difference for those who are wondering how they fit in. Be on the lookout to give these students a little extra boost to let them know they are welcome and valued. It doesn't cost you anything!
Everybody likes to be treated with trust. Some people feel like you must earn it first. I would rather go with the philosophy that you have my trust, until you give me a reason to not trust you any longer. There is a certain security that comes with knowing you don't have to try to prove yourself. Sometimes, our new students come with a long file behind them that can affect how we view them. Make an effort to give them a fresh start - you never know, if you treat them with trust, they may just rise to the occasion!