Starting school in a new environment is daunting at any time. Perhaps even more so, when you and your child have experienced an unusual school year – or two – interrupted by a global pandemic.
Here are some of our suggestions for a smooth transition into a new school environment.
Before School Starts
If you have the opportunity, look around the centre, with your child and a teacher, before school starts. To ensure your child feels calm during the visit, try to keep the number of people and new faces to a minimum.
At The Scots College Early Learning Centre (ELC), due to COVID-19 restrictions, ELC staff chose to meet their newest students, and their parents and carers, through a welcome Zoom call at the beginning of the new year. These Zoom calls were hosted before school commenced. During the Zoom calls, parents and carers were introduced to their son’s teacher to build a connection that would usually be created face-to-face. The Zoom calls created a highly individualised introduction that worked well. It allowed the new student to share some insight into what activities he enjoyed most at home.
For those families whose children needed some extra support, introducing them to a new environment, the ELC invited them to attend a special tour of the Centre, when it was safe to do so. While the Centre was empty and quiet, the family could explore without too many distractions.
Preparing for the First Day
Be prepared for the first day of school by collecting what you and your child need, well ahead of time. This may include purchasing a hat, uniform, backpack, drink bottle or lunchbox a few weeks earlier. Gathering these items can be a fun activity to do in preparation for school. Select items together and use the language of getting ready for ‘big school’ or ‘preschool’ to encourage excitement. Help your child form a connection of ownership and responsibility with their school items, by adding their name to each item.
Take the time to talk with your child about what will happen on a typical school day. If you are unsure, ask for a daily program guide from your centre. This way you can answer, with confidence, any questions that your child may ask.
The Early Learning Centre posted Welcome booklets to each family, before the first day of school. The illustrated books show real photos of the Centre, creative illustrations that represent a fine Scots boy’s journey through his first day of school, ‘what to bring’ checklists, and an easy approach for keeping a positive mindset on the day.
Their First Day of School
Be well planned for the first day, so you are not rushing. Establish a simple routine from when you wake up, so the start of the day is smooth and naturally transitions to the point where you walk into the centre doors. Make sure everything is ready to go by packing your son’s bag the night before and laying out his clothes, shoes and socks. Many children enjoy the feeling of being organised.
They will be fine if you are fine. Stay positive and – although you might feel like hanging on tight and staying all day to watch and soak up the first-day experience – remember they need to settle and so do you. Make the routine happily reliable for goodbye and pick up.
This year, The Scots College Early Learning Centre decided to host Orientation Day for new boys, on the day before school started for the whole of the College. This was so the boys did not have a long time to worry about what they saw, or what someone said to them during the orientation. The boys ‘broke the ice’ by introducing themselves to a smaller group, and the next day, they felt a little more confident, already knowing a few familiar faces. For most new boys, this worked well.
When the students came together, in class, the Zoom call visits were played back to the boys in the whole group. This allowed the students to see the interests of other boys, including building Lego at home or playing the piano.
When it comes to ‘pick up’ try not to be late. Young children rely on you being there when you say you will be, and feel safe when promises are kept.
When children start school, often their diet and sleep patterns change, too. You may find a very hungry person arriving home, or you might find a very tired little person who wants to hop into bed at the end of the day. It is fine to adjust the plan to match their needs.
Let them share in their own time.
When you see them at the end of the day do not interrogate them for details. Remember, the toilet and food supplies might need attending to first – that is if they have not fallen asleep in the back of the car on the way home. They could be grumpy or over-excited, so allow for some time to calm down at their pace.
Making friends and feeling safe is really important, and it begins with the teacher or assistant they will meet. Support their stories or comments about who they sat next to or who they played with.
Book a Personal Tour
If you would like to know how The Scots College can support your son through his early learning journey, book a personal tour of the Early Learning Centre here.