The first day of school is dreaded by the young ones and their parents alike. The anxiety of being in unfamiliar surroundings with new people can be scary for these little ones who have barely stayed away for a few hours from the comfort of their home. It is indeed the responsibility of the parents, the school, and its teachers to make this transition as seamless as possible so that ‘going to school’ doesn’t become a task for them.
Parents too need to ensure that their children enjoy their first days in school as it can positively affect their attitude towards learning and socialising. Parents can also give them an idea as to what to expect from a ‘big school’ which can make it easier for the child. Young ones with older siblings are evidently the ones who start school with a little more excitement than others as they are used to seeing their siblings get dressed, take a bus and pack bags. They tend to settle in faster too.
Here’s how the process of settling into school can be made smoother…
Prepare together: Parents can involve their children in their preparation for school. For example, take them to pick out their school bag, water bottles, and pencil cases, reminding them how they are grown up now to go to a big school. They will feel responsible and look forward to going to school.
An interesting playground: The school can invest in a brilliant and enticing playground to ensure that the newcomers look forward to their time in school. A school playground can offer a wide range of sensory experiences to suit different personalities, and to encourage even the shyest of children to come and ultimately try out things. Even children who are hyperactive can be calmed down by giving them time in the playground where they can explore on their own. It can help them socialise and get to know one another well.
Get into a routine well in advance: It is important that children are trained to get into the habit of waking up early at least a few weeks before school starts. When a child is suddenly forced to wake up early one day, it can be unpleasant and they may tend to protest. The morning rush can be avoided if a routine is set. For this, they need to get into a routine of going to bed early. If waking up early, having breakfast and catching the bus can be done without hurrying, it can help the child be calm and focussed in school as well.
Reassure students: For most of the students, it may be their first time away from home and this can be daunting. They may have many questions in their heads. “Will my parents come back for me?”, “Will I ever go back home?” and the like. It is important that on the first day of school, the teachers reassure the students that their parents are waiting outside to pick them up. This can be very comforting and it will help build trust in the teacher.
Sit together: Teachers can make all the students sit together on a carpet where they can interact rather than on benches which can feel more isolating for a child. Sitting around a carpet creates a feeling of oneness and gives them lesser mind-space to miss home.
Show them around: New students need to be allowed to explore around their classroom. They also need to be shown where the toilet is and assured that they can ask for help if required. Familiarising them with their new surroundings is very important for them to start feeling at ease.
Unwinding activity: Teachers can start with an activity to unwind. From colouring to building blocks, teachers can engage students with an activity. Most kids that age are used to holding a crayon. Giving them a picture to colour can help them release some of their creativity and not think about home.
Gradually increase class time: If the timing of kindergarten is for four hours, during the first week, students can be in school for one hour and two hours for the next and so on. The gradual increase in time helps them settle in better rather than a sudden four-hour regimen as this can be taxing on the little minds.
Organise their return: Teachers need to make sure they are aware of how each and every child is dropped back home. Be it a parent pick-up or by bus, teachers need to be aware of how each child reaches home every day. This can build confidence in parents too to send their child. Make sure the students are being released to the proper guardian or caretaker.
Make them feel wanted: Teachers need to make each and every student feel wanted and loved. They also need to give instructions from scratch, not assuming that they know something. Give clear directions, and have students demonstrate back the expected behaviour to ensure understanding.
Lay ground rules: As important as it is that the children settle in well in school, it is also important that the teacher sets the rules for the classroom clearly and sticks to them. A chaotic classroom is the last thing a kindergarten teacher would want to deal with.
Even with all the support from teachers and parents, each child takes his/her time to settle into a new environment. It can be a few days to a few weeks. With patience and proper guidance, a child can gel in well in a group and ultimately get attached to his school. It is imperative that he/she settles well in school so that the school can ultimately bring out the best in the child.
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