New Kid on the Block

It’s common for students to move and start at a new school but it can be challenging sometimes. This is my experience with being a new student at a new school.

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Chloe Oppelt

It’s common for students to move and start at a new school but it can be challenging sometimes. This is my experience with being a new student at a new school.

Remember when you were in kindergarten and met the classmates you’d go to school with for the rest of your elementary, middle school, and high school life? Some of them you may have even gone to daycare or preschool with. They didn’t care what you looked like, what clothes you wore, or even if you could read or not; they just cared if you could play kickball or foursquare and if you could do the monkey bars all the way across without stopping. These classmates became your loyal friends as you celebrated the 100th day of school, had classroom Halloween parties with, and went through the various stages of bad haircuts and poor fashion decisions during elementary school and maybe even middle school. As you enter high school, you have vetted all the friends and decided who is worthy of spending your time with. You have decided who you have the most in common with, and whose values have changed too much for you guys to be friends. Now picture leaving that life and moving to a new community–going to a new school where you know no one. No one has seen your great kickball skills at this new school, no one knows you love to read, no one knows you were the star of your middle school play last year, no one even knows that you were on student council last year and a leader in your old school. No one is looking or is interested in knowing any of this information, either.

 

Being a new student can really stink. Not only do you not remember where your locker is or where the closest bathroom is, but you don’t have a friendly face to ask for help in finding these things. I was a new kid last year in the Iowa City Schools and experienced all these things and more. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from; being new in a building is hard. For example, lunch is usually a time to relax with your friends and just chill out. When you’re the new kid, though, it’s quite possibly the worst part of the day. Lunch is the only time of the school day that isn’t choreographed by teachers, so you’re all alone when it comes to interacting with people and finding a place to sit; you are at the mercy of someone inviting you to sit with them or noticing you. It might even be easier to just sit alone instead of risking embarrassing yourself trying to find a place to sit in the giant room full of strangers. Watching everyone talk and hang out with friends while you sit at a table by yourself, pretending to be interested in whatever you’re doing on your phone, is a tough way to spend a daily lunch period. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I texted my grandma during lunch last year; my grandma is pretty cool, but it is still is kind of embarrassing to have to talk to your grandma during lunch. 

 

Now, picture a student noticing a new student sitting alone in a class and saying hi.  Picture a group of students remembering the name of a new student to greet in the hallway. Picture a pair of students inviting a new student to eat lunch with them and sit at their lunch table. If you ever notice a new kid who is sitting alone, please go up to them. It might seem like a small, irrelevant thing to you, but to that person, it will be appreciated. That little action will send a big message to new students to the school. They might even go home and tell their mom how excited they were that someone invited them to sit next to them at lunch. 

 

There are so many things you can do to make a new student’s day a little bit easier. One thing you can do is just go up and start a conversation with them. It doesn’t matter when, it could be before class, during lunch, or walking down the hallway. Trust me when I tell you that it will make their day. Another thing you could do is partner up with them when the class has partner work. Imagine your science teacher asks the class to find a partner for a project you are doing, and when you look around the room, you realize that you don’t know anyone in your class. You then sit there in silence as you watch everyone move around and go find their friends to partner with. If you could save someone the embarrassment of having to partner up with the teacher that would be greatly appreciated. 

 

Teachers, you have a role in this, too.  Do you know which students are new to your school? Are you watching your students to make sure everyone feels welcomed and comfortable in your classroom? Maybe instead of having people pick their own partners, assign partners sometimes, so people are forced to meet each other instead of just automatically going to partner up with their friends. 

 

I know my eyes were widened through the lens of being the new kid and I have thought more than once about whether I could have made a transition easier for someone in my old school. I’m not saying that my experience being the new kid was all negative. I met some really amazing people and learned how to put myself out there and try new things. I just hope that by sharing my experiences with you, you now might be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I know my eyes were widened through the lens of being the new kid and I have thought more than once about whether I could have made a transition easier for someone in my old school. I’ve asked myself if I even noticed when kids were new and did they feel the same way I did when I started in a new school? Since I know better now, I want to do better and I want everyone else to do better by our new students too. So let’s include everyone, and treat people with kindness.