Do you remember your first day of first grade? It probably wasn’t too far off from your first day of sixth grade or ninth grade – you were probably a little nervous as you scanned the room looking for familiar faces; you were probably a little excited, ready to jump into all the new books and activities.
Just as you experienced, students undergo a significant change when they move from one grade level to the next or from one school to another.
The real challenge is not getting used to a new teacher, classmates, or a new building, but coping with change. Children, like most adults, are comfortable with what they know. Your goal is to help students realize that their new teacher, new classmates, and new building is not so different from what they’ve known. That takes patience, time, and trust, but the reward of seeing students succeed is worth the effort.
Helping children cope with change
Change is the only constant, so it’s important for you to help your students acclimate to their new grade. Here are some tips for helping children cope with change in the classroom and beyond.
Help them identify areas of commonality and stability
Students thrive when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. A helpful way to help students transition from one grade to the next is to write down areas of commonality between their former grade (or former school) and this one. You can do this for the whole class or for individual students as they come to you with concerns.
Listen to and validate the student’s feelings
Genuine empathy can do wonders for a child’s psyche. When an adult takes the time to listen to a child’s feelings, they remind the child that their feelings are valid, that they’re not alone, and that they matter.
This is especially true for students who were enrolled in school during the COVID-19 pandemic – those students experienced more upheaval and anxiety than a child ever should, but it’s not all doom and gloom.
With a compassionate, careful ear, teachers can encourage and motivate their students, no matter their previous learning experience. Teachers can respond to children’s worries and concerns by saying things like:
- “That sounds tough.”
- “I understand why you’re upset.”
- “If that happened to me, I’d be upset, too.”
Keep in mind that while most children may vocalize their concerns, others may act out or behave inappropriately as their way of expressing emotion. As a teacher, it’s important to recognize that every behavior is a type of communication, and that children engaging in “bad” behavior should be treated with the same kindness and gentleness as their peers.
The real challenge is not getting used to a new teacher, new classmates, and maybe even a new building, but in coping with change.
Help children recognize what they can control
Educational personality tests like the CHC Model and Eysenck Personality Questionnaire can tell you your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes, and countless other things, but what they won’t tell you is this: Just like adults, children crave control.
As a teacher, you like knowing what to expect; your students are the same way. An unwelcome or unprompted change can throw a wrench in your students’ confidence, impeding their ability to absorb information.
Unwelcome change makes people feel like they don’t have control over their lives. Ask your students or children, “What are you free to choose right now?” and they’ll be reminded of their own power.
Guide children to focus on a positive future
This is your chance to let your creativity shine. Help your students imagine the positive things that they can experience this year. Our favorite idea is to have students create “mood boards” on construction paper or digitally on the classroom computers.
Ask your students to imagine making new friends, forming connections with their teachers, and learning their favorite subjects. Having something to look forward to gives students the motivation they need to learn.
Encourage children to reflect on past instances of resilience
Every child has been through some kind of challenge or difficulty. Recollecting those experiences is a powerful tool that can remind students they already have the tools to get through this challenge, too.
You don’t need to ask children to share their experiences with you or the rest of the class; you can ask them to write about their experiences in a private journal.
You support your students. Promethean supports you.
Teachers wear many hats – instructor, mentor, and guide. As a teacher, you’re tasked with helping your students adjust to a new grade level, but it’s important to note that this task is not yours alone. Learn Promethean is a platform dedicated to panel resources that brings together all aspects of Promethean learning.