Secondary teacher; Wellington Secondary College

The start of the school year can be daunting for any child. The anticipation of who their teacher will be, where they will put their books and bag, which friends will be in their class or even how will they find the toilet?

Being the little fish all over again brings about many new challenges, stresses and anxieties which both parents and teachers shouldn’t ignore. Here are some helpful hints to help get your ‘little fish’ ready to swim in the sea:

1. LABEL EVERYTHING – let’s be frank kids lose things. Teachers are forever finding jumpers, textbooks and even phones left behind in the classroom or the school yard. Schools understand how expensive sending a student to school can be and one way to minimise the unnecessary added costs throughout the year is to label everything! You may want to make it a holiday activity and get your child on board by asking what type of labels they would like. Head to your local stationery store, get some supplies and your child can spend some time making their own labels.

2. FINDING YOUR WAY – little fish often get confused and lost in the first few weeks of their new surroundings. Whether your child is attending a small or large campus of their new school, their surroundings will be unfamiliar and take some time to get used to. One way to help them out is to head to the schools website and see if you can download a map of the school. If one is not available, email the school and ask them to email you a copy. Then it’s time to get out the highlighters and outline and label the main areas of the school your child will need to know. These may include the main office, canteen, library and of course the toilets. This will allow your child to create a visual representation of their new school surroundings which may ease their anxiety on their first day.

3. ROUTINE – the holidays are great for breaking the norm and having no set routine, however once school goes back those late nights and late starts will need to be put on hold until the next term break. A week before the new school year begins implement a new routine that reflects a school day. Discuss and negotiate an appropriate bed time and half an hour before lights out try and get your child to write in a journal or read a book. Screens should definitely be off and away before bedtime to allow the brain to relax and get ready to sleep. Also try and set alarms to get your child into the habit of waking up at the same time every day. This will help with their morning routine once school goes back. 

4. IT – phones, laptops, BYOD, iPads; the ICT equipment is endless and teens are a whiz on them. However, for the bigger kids, this isn’t always appropriate for the classroom. Have a chat with your child about appropriate use of their device during school hours. It is a challenge to separate most students from their devices and usually classroom rules dictate the appropriate usage however parental support and reinforcement goes a long. Most schools will have a device policy either on their website or in the college diary so it is worthwhile sitting down with your child and reading through the policy so there is no miscommunication about what is acceptable.

5. TRANSPORT – bus schedules, tram schedules or even the best route to walk can get confusing and overwhelming for any newbie. You may want to do a few practice runs together and then let your child gain their confidence by trying it themselves. Building confidence and resilience is important when you are a small fish so this is a good place to start.

Remember to reassure your child that it will get easier and being a “little fish” won’t last forever.