Well, it’s that time of the year once again folks. Parents are packing lunches, teachers are polishing lesson plans, and students are getting backpacks and supplies prepared.
That’s right….’tis the season for Back To School cheer!
For many students, going back to school is a very exciting time. They get to meet a new teacher in a new classroom, they get to see all their friends in one place again, and they get to learn lots of new information. I personally remember laying my head down on my pillow the night before the first day of fifth grade, and imagining that at the start of the next morning I would step onto campus and somehow feel magically older (at a certain elementary age, it suddenly became so much cooler to be a “big kid”).
For many children, though, the first day of school can be a nerve-wracking one. Some children lay their heads down on the last night of summer vacation, wondering what their first day at a brand new school will be like, while others wonder if they’ll be able to keep up in math or reading with a new teacher in a higher grade that they aren’t familiar with. I also remember being absolutely terrified to start my freshman year of high school. I knew I’d be starting with many peers from my middle school, but I had no idea how high school would be different. The unknown aspects of change made me nervous.
I suppose that the overall point is that the first day of school can hold a whole variety of emotions for all students, no matter what grade they are entering. A third grader may be so excited to see their friends in the morning but may cry at lunch because their best friend didn’t like their new haircut. A high school freshman may step foot onto campus only to realize that the details of their schedule are incorrect. The worst part of their first day might be having to walk into a new class late!
No matter the obstacles, students always need that good ol’ social-emotional support.
With support in expressing emotions and working through problems, students can practice their skills in autonomy and independence.
So if you’re a teacher or administrator who sees an upset student alone at recess, ask them if they are ok. Inquire about their emotions, and help them communicate (whether it’s telling you, or telling their friend that the comment on their new haircut hurt their feelings). If you’re a parent or caregiver picking them up on the first day, ask how things went. Did they meet anyone new? What classes seem to be the most interesting and exciting?
Whether the first day is wonderful or tough (or a bit of both), sometimes simple questions combined with a reliable and empathetic set of ears can make all the difference.