Every year we welcome new students and staff members to TIS as the school continues to grow and expand. This year alone we added over 225 new students from PK to Grade 12 and more than 30 new staff members to the TIS family! Starting a new school can be very exciting - meeting new people, trying activities you’ve never tried before and learning something new everyday is exhilarating and fun! But for some people, starting a new school can be very intimidating and they feel worried or scared. “Will I fit in or feel left out? Will I make new friends and find someone to talk to and spend time with? Will it be hard work? What if I make a mistake or fail?” These same concerns are expressed by new people of all ages.
At TIS we are always welcoming new people, and we offer ongoing assistance and support to those who are new in our community. We are happy to meet with students and parents in advance to give them information about the school procedures and programs, to take them on a tour and often introduce them to several staff members. We begin the school year with a welcoming family activity and an information night to share our school curriculum and practices and give families an opportunity to celebrate and meet other members of the TIS community. We hold several Community Day Celebrations and special events throughout the school year to continue to provide opportunities for social connections to develop between all TIS community members.
We arrange parent teacher interviews early in the school year and again midway to provide an opportunity for parents and teachers to talk privately and share information about children and school, and invite parents to arrange a meeting with their classroom teacher at any time. We welcome all parents to our TIS Parent Association (TISPA) each year and encourage parents to participate and volunteer in classroom, school and community activities in a variety of ways.
Teachers also take into special consideration those students in their classes who are new to the school. They often select a buddy for a new student - someone who can help them in the first few weeks to feel welcome and included by showing them around and inviting them to join conversations, groups and recess activities. Teachers work hard to quickly get to know the students in their classes and become familiar with their learning needs and strengths in order to offer a range of instruction and activities to best meet the needs of all learners and build in opportunities for student voice and choice. They offer a variety of after school clubs, special events and sports activities and encourage new students to join several different groups each term.
Parents play an important role in providing support and guidance for their child when they move to a new school. If your child is new to TIS this year, you can bring them to the school in advance to meet the teachers and have a look around to see several locations in the school and on the campus. Help your child get a good rest each school night and be sure to plan lunches and pack healthy meals and snacks to provide the necessary energy for an active day. Make sure uniforms, school supplies and lunches are all organized the night before to avoid forgetting items or having a hectic or rushed start to the school day. Sign your child up for extra clubs and fun activities and encourage them to try something new. Check your child’s bag and your email or What’s App group each night for messages and information about school deadlines and events. Monitor your child’s homework to be sure it is manageable and not requiring an unreasonable amount of time to complete - children need some down time each day to relax and play. Volunteer to help out in your child’s classroom or in a different capacity in the school. Young students are usually very happy to share their school activities with parents and see their parents in the school.
You can also help by being optimistic about the transition to a different school and country, talking about some of the new opportunities for friendships and activities. Coach your child to reach out to others and invite conversations and play opportunities. Tell them to ask for help if they feel concerned or overwhelmed, and prepare them to handle stress by teaching them to calm themselves and have a problem solving mindset. Use strategies like positive reframing, challenging your child to seek positive ways of evaluating an event or a day rather than focusing on a single instance that did not go well compared to the many events that did. Empathize with their expressions of sadness or anger regarding a particular negative event and then help them find proactive, little steps to move towards a solution and a better day tomorrow. Assist them to acknowledge personal responsibility for their role in a conflict or struggle and guide them to determine appropriate steps for restitution and how to make better choices next time.
If the adjustment process seems to be taking a very long time or your child seems stuck in a negative, unpleasant or pessimistic frame of mind, request a meeting with the teacher to discuss any concerns and identify strategies for support at home and school that will help your child move towards resolutions and increase the number of happy and successful school days they experience weekly.
Finally, we all need to be reminded to be patient and realize that it takes time to adjust to a new school, home and country. Although it is natural to initially feel nervous and uncertain, this attitude will change in time as routines are established and children find new people they have things in common with and feel connected to. By maintaining a positive outlook and avoiding comparisons of the new to the old, their self confidence will increase and they will be able to appreciate the new school environment in ways that they couldn’t imagine when they first arrived. When we face new challenges and risks and experience growth and success, we build our skills and confidence to face future challenges and risks and become resilient learners of any age.