The first day of school is an extremely daunting experience for everyone involved. For teachers, particularly teachers starting at a new school, it is a daunting experience as it may be their first time teaching a class, or they are unsure how to proceed with their first year, and they may be worried about failing. Of course it is daunting for the child as they are in a completely new environment with new people, new sounds, sights and smells and they are not entirely sure how to deal with it all.
For parents it is daunting as it will probably be the first time you leave your children in the presence of a stranger for an extended period of time. Although you cannot prepare your child completely for the exciting and frightening experience of school, you can take steps to help reduce their anxiety about starting at school and prepare them for how they are expected to act and behave when at school.
Establish clear rules as to what is and what isn’t acceptable in the school environment. Explain to your child that he or she must sit down quietly and listen to the teacher when told. You can have practice sessions with your children by pretending that you are the teacher, or by using puppets.
Explain that physical contact is a big no no, unless your teacher says so. Practise shaking hands with your child and if you can, explain the PANTS rule to your child, although do not get worried if they don’t take to it right away.
Although children are easily excitable and may often find it hard to concentrate on one thing, you should try to express the importance of listening and learning to your child. Be patient as it is all a new experience for them and you don’t want to overwhelm them before they even get into the class.
It may be good to explain to them what classrooms are for and what the experience is like. Reading them books about classes, schools and teachers is also good, as it gets them to practise on focusing on a task while at the same time learning about their soon to be new experience.
This may seem like a simple one but it can be easy to miss out particularly if you and your significant other also lead busy lives. It is important to make sure that your child knows basic skills so as to avoid possible embarrassment between them and their teacher.
Simple things like being able to dress and undress themselves for PE, or being able to take themselves off to the toilet and recognise when they need to go. These things are essential. A good tip for helping kids to dress themselves is to try and work up a rhythm to the activity through song or chanting. This will help your child remember what goes where and in what order when you are not around to help them.
Remember that every child progresses at a different rate, so treat every child differently according to his or her interests. An introverted child who wants to sit down in the corner of the classroom and read a book is no less or no more nervous than the child running around wanting to shake everyone’s hand. Take their needs into account and try not to push them too hard to make friends or to include themselves in any activities.
As a mother of a pre-school age child, Louise Burton works part time as a classroom assistant and she has an interest in SEN teaching. She writes about this for Red Box Teacher Recruitment who are experienced providers of temporary teachers and auxiliary staff for schools including primary schools and nurseries in London.