Welcome to my world

When children enter school for the first time it takes a while for them to adjust to the unfamiliar culture and environment which pertains only to school. They need to settle in, get used to the new routines, and understand what is and is not allowed.  A supportive classroom environment with established procedures for welcoming new students makes for a smoother transition.

Children also need to be familiarised with the physical surroundings so that they are able to confidently navigate their way to, from and between their classroom and places like the amenities block, the office, the canteen, the library, and the playground.

Students moving from one school, or even one class within the same school, to another, also require a period of adjustment. While some understandings of the culture from the previous situation may be transferrable, there will be some aspects which are unfamiliar. No two classes or schools are identical or have the same set of rules and expectations.

school rules

I saw the difficulty experienced by each of my children when the newcomer in an established group. While both were confident and resilient children, verbally able to express themselves, both struggled initially to find their place within already established friendship groups that were comfortable and confident in their familiar surroundings.

My son changed schools at the beginning of his second year at school and was the only addition to an existing class. A more sensitive teacher with established procedures for welcoming new students may have eased his transition. Although, due to delivery delays, he was wearing his previous school’s uniform, his teacher failed to realise that he was new to the school and class and did nothing to help him integrate into the group or to familiarise him with school procedures and facilities.

ist day of school

Bec’s first day of school © Norah Colvin

The situation for my daughter was a little different. Her first experience of school was at age nine when she entered year four. Although I had explained what she might expect, everything about the culture and the environment was unfamiliar. While her teacher was a little more sensitive and did what she could to help her settle in, there was much about the established culture and environment that others took for granted.

When we are familiar with and comfortable in a situation it can be easy to forgot how unfamiliar and daunting it can be to someone new to an environment in which nothing can be taken for granted, nothing is known for sure.

I always established a welcoming classroom but the experiences of my own children confirmed its importance. If they, as members of the majority culture, found it difficult, how much more difficult would it be for those from minority groups.  I suggest that every teacher should have in place procedures for welcoming new students.

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

Here are just a few suggestions:

Welcoming a new class of students at the beginning of the year:

  • Provide many opportunities for students to get to know each other through group activities, discussion circles and paired work with many different combinations of children
  • Explain expectations and rules. It is no fun being chastised for a misdemeanour that resulted from lack of knowledge as opposed to poor choice
  • Take students on a walk around the school showing them places they will need to visit (as well as any places they are not allowed); for example:
    • Toilets
    • The office
    • The library
    • The playground
    • The canteen
    • Where to eat lunch, and to dispose of their rubbish
    • Where to line up
    • Where to place bags and other belongings

school directions

Procedures for welcoming new students throughout the year may differ slightly. It is not always practical to repeat the same procedures that were used when familiarising an entire class.

However, students still need to have the expectations explained to them, as some may differ from what has already been experienced, for example: are they required to put up their hands for individual release when the play bell rings or are they dismissed for play en masse; do they keep their water bottles on their desks or are they stored somewhere else; do they line up with a row of boys and a row of girls or are the rows mixed?

I always found it a useful practice to include newcomers when messages were sent to the office, the canteen or the library, for example. This would help children get to know and be known by other school personnel, as well as get to know their way around the school.

Until their own friendship groups were established I ensured there was a friend to “look after” them at break time, showing them where to sit, where to play, where to line up and, especially, to play with them. There were always plenty of willing friends.

I have been thinking about the importance of showing students around the classroom and school this week in response to the flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch. Anne Goodwin, author of Sugar and Snails, took over the reins from Charli Mills this week, prompting writers to compose a 99-word flash on the theme of showing someone around a property As usual the prompt allows for a variety of interpretations and Anne suggests that we not let out imaginations be confined by four walls.

I never like to think of imaginations being confined and in recent posts I have talked about the importance of imaginative play, even introducing many to a new term: loose parts play.

I decided to play with loose parts this week, and include a welcoming environment. It occurs in a home, rather than a school. I hope you enjoy it.

New world

Thinking it much too quiet, Sally excused herself from the conversation.

She peeked through the door. A sheet was draped from the top bunk to the curtain rail. The drawers were stacked staircase-like, their contents piled high in the corner. Emily, adorned in crown and cape, watched Jessica, in cowboy boots, fossick in the overturned toy box. Max sat nearby reading to assorted stuffed animals. All three sensed Sally’s presence simultaneously.

“Mum! Look what we made!” beamed Jessica. Sally suppressed her initial reaction: mess.

“Come in. We’ll show you! This is our cave. This is our mountain …”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

46 thoughts on “Welcome to my world

  1. Bec

    That is a lovely FF! I like the parent’s sense for suspicious quiet. I also really like your very practical and helpful guides for teachers welcoming a new class. And I am so pleased that you to go such thoughtful lengths to make a new student part of your class. You have taught many lucky children!

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  2. macjam47

    My three sons were each twelve years apart and therefore, the youngest spent many days at the junior high/high school with me checking my mail, copying newsletters for mailing, working in the bookstore, and as I was PTA president, he was often with me when I met with the principal or teachers. As he grew up, his older brothers’ friends would pick him up and carry him off to class. or if after school for a run through the building. He spent weekends at his brother’s wrestling tournaments and even helped the coach as a mat boy. But, when the time for him to enter the school as a student, all the years of comfort were for naught. He had to learn the rules, get from one class to the next on time, and now had a different relationship with teachers who for years had treated him as the cute little kid brother. He was very uncomfortable the first few days of school, but fortunately for him, his teachers recognized his discomfort and treated him like all the other students, who, after all, were truly new to the school. I wish every parent could see the teachers and administrators in the same light as I was able to. They are some really special people in charge of our children for a great part of their growing up years.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for sharing, Michelle; and for your lovely comment about teachers. It is especially welcome as this is teacher appreciation month in the US. I’m sure those teachers would love to know how much they were valued and the difference they made to your boys’ lives.
      I’m pleased your little one was able to adjust to the changing relationships and expectations. It’s not always easy.
      There are twelve years between my two as well!
      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  3. julespaige

    I don’t remember teachers being all that sensitive to me as the new student. But I did have a couple of English Teachers who encouraged my creative writing.

    I also remember being very young at one school. The same room must have been used for two grades. As I remember I liked the housekeeping section. But never seemed to get enough time there. I had a teacher who was on the wicked side I think. When it came to free play at the beginning of that year and I raised my hand for ‘housekeeping’ I was excited to be picked. However my joy soon diminished as the area had been cleaned up at the end of the last school year and had yet to be ‘restocked’ so everything was empty. Not a good start to the new school year when the teacher isn’t welcoming.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Oh Jules, that is such a sad story. I feel sorry for that little child who missed out on playing the way she was hoping too. I want to give that little child a big hug and make things better (actually teachers aren’t allowed to hug children any more, so I couldn’t anyway, but I’d like to). I’m sorry that’s what it was like for you, and I’m pleased you had some English teachers who encouraged your creative writing. We all get to enjoy the benefits of that now. xx

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      1. julespaige

        I remember still being able to hug children… when I taught (many moons ago). I know the rules now…and that is sad. Sometimes just a hug is all that is needed.

        Thank you. That last sentence really means so much.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Hugs can say much more than words, and sometimes they say just the right thing! It’s a pity the rules have been changed because of the indiscretions of just a few.
          Keep writing! 🙂

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  4. Rowena

    Hi Norah,
    I just wanted to tell you that after my previous comment, I found an ad in my daughter’s school newsletter advertising for a temporary school engagement officer. It’s a one day a week job, which would be perfect for me. I am so excited. Please keep your fingers crossed!
    xx Rowena

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    1. Norah Post author

      That’s very exciting, Rowena. I wish you success. You’d be wonderful in the role.
      Although, having just re-read your previous comment in which you mentioned being “naughty” in assembly, I’m wondering if your reputation preceded you and caused the (current) school to change it’s policy! 🙂
      All the best. xx

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      1. Rowena

        Ha! Had an excursion to Manly today to visit the new twins and their parents. They were so cute. Hope you’re having a great weekend and Happy Mothers’ Day for tomorrow. We saw my Mum today as the kids have rehearsals for Gang Show in the afternoon. I am currently resting my laptop on top of Bilbo who still thinks he’s pup or small enough to be a lapdog. xx Ro

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        1. Norah Post author

          I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day too. I had all my family here – 2 (adult) children and their partners, 2 grandchildren and one grandpuppy. It was delightful. Have a good week. 🙂

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          1. Rowena

            Happy Mothers’ Day, Norah. We did our Mothers Day with Mum yesterday and had a quiet day at home today. A PJ day…just what I needed. Now, I need to get set for another week. Wish I had a stopwatch which could hold time for a week or so. xx Ro

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            1. Norah Post author

              That stopwatch would sell like wildfire!
              Your PJ day sounds lovely. I had the day with my younger ones – all three generations together. I love it.

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  5. Gulara

    Amazing how much detail and emotion you managed to pack into 99 words, Norah! Great flash, left me smiling. As to your reflections on the importance of a welcoming environment, I agree wholeheartedly. We took Jasmin for visits to nursery twice a week for four months before we felt she was comfortable in that environment. We are transferring Caspian to a preschool at the local school where we hope he will stay on. Those transitions and settling in time are so important and pay off more than we often realise. I’m sorry it wasn’t smooth for your kids. My sense though you’ve laid a firm foundation at home. I hope it supported them later on.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m pleased the flash made you smile, Gulara. I think most parents would recognise the scenario.
      I hope Caspian settles well into his new preschool. Those first impressions and reactions are very important.
      My children survived well and have always managed to stand up for themselves. They are independent, confident and capable adults and I am proud to be a part of their lives.
      Thanks for commenting.

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  6. roweeee

    Another great post and flash, Norah. Hearing you talk about the need to make new children welcome also reminds me of the need to do the same with their parents. I am barely involved at my kids’ schools this year. This is such a change. i have found it difficult to find an anchor point and since I barely set foot at either school, that’s hard. My daughter has been to quite a few parties and all these kids are new and the parents are working but keen to meet up so I can see things coming together. I felt more comfortable walking into the men’s toilet than popping into the high school. As you’ve said before, parents don’t exist.
    Norah, I thought you’d appreciate this article about a special needs teacher helping a down’s kid get back to their seat on a flight: http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/in-the-sky-above-melbourne-special-needs-teacher-comes-to-the-rescue-20160501-goj8k7.html
    xx Rowena

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing that story, Rowena. I’ve just wrecked my mascara and can hardly see to reply. What a wonderful woman. There are some truly amazing people in the world.
      It is true what you say about parents needing to feel welcome too. I always welcomed parents into my classroom. There was so much more we could do if we had helpers. It meant a lot to the children, the parents, as well as to me.
      I hope you do make a nice group of friends with the other parents soon. It helps when you know the families of children your own are mixing with.
      And one last piece of advice: Do try to stay out of the men’s toilets!
      Thanks for reading and commenting. xx

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      1. Rowena

        At the kids’ last school, parents could stay for the informal assembly. I was naughty and often talked through it but it brought parents together and we also had a better idea of what was going on at the school. At my daughter’s new school, parents aren’t allowed in apart from out the front to the drop off area, which is good from a security point of view but I think they’ve raised to barrier too far. I can in for her violin lessons but I sign in. Previously, I’ve been in and out of the classroom after school. I do miss that involvement but I am tired and it’s also been a relief. I also get more writing done being a completely free agent.
        I laughed at your advice about the Men’s. Haven’t made that mistake for awhile!
        Hope you are having a great week. My cousin had identical twin boys yesterday. I can’t wait to see them. One is a little bigger than the other so you can see the difference. So exciting but hard work ahead. xx Ro

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        1. Norah Post author

          I can’t imagine a school where parents aren’t welcome. What sort of message does that send to everyone? It worries me a little and I wonder if the message is more about them protecting their own image or not wanting the intrusion of parents. Education should be a partnership between parents and the school. After all, parents know their children far better than a teacher can in a few short hours over a year. I would have loved having you popping in to help out the classroom. Parents were always welcome.
          I guess that you get more uninterrupted writing time is a plus, but your children are only children for such a short time.
          I’m pleased you haven’t made the mistake re the men’s toilet for a while. I must say though, that those little icons can be hard to distinguish sometimes; and it’s even more difficult when places come up with what they consider to be more unusual descriptors.
          I hope your cousin enjoys her twin boys. Life is going to become a lot more interesting.
          Take care. I hope you’re enjoying the weekend. xx

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          1. Rowena

            Thanks, Norah. I know they were getting lot of locals cutting through the school to get to the shops. They had a Mothers’ Day morning tea on Friday but i didn’t find out about it until it was too late. We had another party today so met getting to know people slowly but surely. xx Ro

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            1. Norah Post author

              What a shame you didn’t know about the morning tea. They definitely need a good communications and liaison officer. I can think of someone who’d do a good job! 🙂

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              1. Rowena

                Thanks, Norah. Will keep you posted! My kids have NAPLAN this week. My son has been doing some preparation and we’ve been playing Boggle but our daughter has had so much to contend with and just trying to get her to eat is a chore. Hopefully, she’ll be fine. Too late now. xx Ro

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                1. Norah Post author

                  I hope you all survive the dreaded NAPLAN. I’m sorry to hear your daughter is still having eating issues. I hope that settles soon. Take care. xx

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  7. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    You are right Sarah and again I wish I’d had you as teacher it would have made moving to a new school that much easier. Your flash was lovely – I could just see those children so proud of their endeavours looking forward to show Mum over the mess. Great Mum too not commenting on the mess and possibly stifling further creativity but embracing her children’s passion.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting so positively, Irene. It is important to be able to look beyond the messy play to the creativity. I’m pleased this came through in my flash.

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  8. Pingback: Showing Someone Around « Carrot Ranch Communications

  9. Charli Mills

    Having someone show you around is so important in school, even if the transition is from one classroom to another. And I love what you did with the prompt, the mom getting the lay of the imaginary land! When I first met my grand-nephew he took me into his imaginary world and showed me his fire engine and where it drove to — he even corrected my driving! I think it’s such a privilege for an adult to be invited. Thank you for all the support and connectivity at Carrot Ranch!

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    1. Norah Post author

      What a tribute to your open nature to have received that invitation from your grand-nephew! They (children) don’t invite everybody! And at first meeting – that’s very special.
      I love my connections with the Ranch. I’d be lost without the good friends I’ve met there. 🙂

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  10. Sarah Brentyn

    You should repost this (or a version of it) in the fall when school starts. I’ve found that most schools do most of these things but you’d be surprised at some of the obvious things they leave out. One thing that stuck out to me is having the “expectations explained”. It is so important. Especially when the kids have different teachers, obviously. But (and we see this ALL THE TIME) even the SAME teachers explain the expectations then don’t follow through. Ugh! This drives me batty! It’s a huge pet peeve. How on earth is a child supposed to know from one day to the next what is expected if it changes or isn’t enforced consistently?! (Sorry for the rant.) 🙂 Great post, as always, my friend.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your support, Sarah. I’m pleased you think the post would be of use to teachers. I agree that most do implement great strategies, but some just forget what it’s like to be new!
      I agree with you about the consistency of expectations too. It is just as important for teachers as it is for parents. How is a child expected to know indeed! They do what they think is expected, get chipped for it, and then become mammoth-ly confused and anxious about everything. It’s not fun for them, or anybody else.

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  11. TanGental

    Such a good point about remembering how difficult it is to assimilate. One thing I remember from my own experience was being told everything and then dreading asking again when I absorbed about one tenth. Horrors. Nice and very familiar flash. Parents have to practice the false smile!

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    1. Norah Post author

      That’s right. There’s often too much information given too quickly, isn’t there? And not yet feeling comfortable in the situation reduces further what can be remembered. I’m quite comfortable asking for information to be repeated now. People don’t expect much more of an older person! But in younger years it was definitely a challenge to pride.
      Practise and practise and practise those smiles. No wonder we end up with so many wrinkles!
      Thanks for your lovely comment. Much appreciated.

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      1. Steven

        “People don’t expect much more of an older person!”

        I look forward to that.

        Most people can have memory retention problems. We can only absorb so much in a certain time, some more than others and with variances depending on what it is we are trying remember.

        I was reading an item in New Scientist just today about a certain medical condition (I can’t remember what it is called – no joke, although I think it started with “p”) of which about only 50 people in the world have. People with this condition can recall every day of their life. I guess there would be disadvantages to that, however I think the advantages would far outweigh them.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Older people! It was said tongue-in-cheek, but I have to admit that to young people, such as yourself, I fit the category. It means people are more patient and just laugh it off when we forget! 🙂
          Memory retention is an issue though. I say that I don’t remember as much now because there’s more to remember and there no more storage space. Those old floppy disks used to fill up real fast!
          I think it’s funny you couldn’t remember the name of a medical condition that describes people who remember everything! I had to look it up and see if I could find it. All I could come up with is “hyperthymesia”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperthymesia.
          If it is the one you read about, then I am even more amused because it doesn’t start with a “p”. It does have a “p” in it though. I do that all the time when I’m trying to recall a word. I think of what it begins with; and most of the time it doesn’t! 🙂
          Yes, I think there would be disadvantages. There are some things I’d rather forget!
          Thanks for joining in, sharing your experiences and giving me a smile. 🙂

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            1. Norah Post author

              Fascinating. Thanks for sharing the article – a much more respected and authoritative resource that the one I consulted, though much of the information cited was the same. I can’t imagine being able to remember everything. I used to be pretty good at remembering conversations but that ability has slipped as the years have passed. As long as cognitive ability doesn’t, I mightn’t worry about forgetting a few details here and there.

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  12. Annecdotist

    Yay, that’s lovely, Norah, and a perfect example of imaginative play.
    I also enjoyed reading about your sensitivity in introducing newcomers to the classroom. You make it sound so obvious, although I reckon it isn’t so for many teachers.
    And thanks for taking the trouble to link to me as well as my guest prompt.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your encouragement, Anne. I am feeling quite out of my depth at the moment, so your words are appreciated. I feel my fiction is stuck in the year one classroom, and less imaginative that my subject matter. Never mind. I’ll move along soon.
      It’s always a pleasure to link when I can. Especially to the Queen of Links. 🙂

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