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February 21, 2018

August Anxiety Series: Top 7 Tips to Start the Year off Right with Your Students

It’s the beginning of August which means that Back-to-School is just around the corner. This time of year can spark a flutter of anxiety in your students. After all, they’re getting themselves ready for a lot of newness: a teacher, classmates, tasks, and challenges. Because the start of a new school year can trigger or worsen anxiety in stressed-out children and teens, we have compiled a list of the top 7 ways to help ease back-to-school anxiety for your students.

1. Allow Students to Meet You Beforehand.

Encourage your parents and new students to meet you before school begins. This will allow the student to get to know you individually, ask questions about the plans for the school year and share any fears or concerns theymight have for the upcoming school year. Establishing a relationship priorto the first day is a great way to reduce anxiety.

2. Introduce a buddy:
Sometimes one friendly face is all it takes to help a child transition from tears to smiles. Find a more outgoing, confident student to introduce to a nervous child as a buddy who will help him or her learn about the new surroundings and routines. Partnering up with a peer is a practical shortcut to helping a child feel more at home in a new classroom.

3. Give the student a responsibility:
Help the anxious student feel useful and part of the group by giving him or her a simple responsibility to help you out in the classroom. It could be something as simple as erasing the whiteboard, or counting out colored construction paper.Children often crave acceptance and attention from their new teacher; so by showing them you rely on them for a certain task, you are instilling confidence and purpose during a critical time. Plus, staying busy will help the child focus on something concrete outside of his or her own feelings in that moment.

4.Share a story of your own:
Nervous students can make themselves feel even worse by imagining that they are the only ones who feel so worried about the first day of school. Consider sharing your own first day of school story with the child in order to reassure him or her that such feelings are common, natural, and surmountable. Personal stories make teachers appear more human and approachable to children.

5. Give a tour of the classroom:
Help your students feel more comfortable in his or her new surroundings by offering a short guided tour of the classroom. Sometimes, just seeing his or her desk can go a long way toward easing uncertainty. Focus on all of the fun activities that will happen around the classroom that day and all year long. Helping your students feel connected to the classroom will help him or her visualize life in the new space.

6. Use students’ names from day one.
As quickly as possible, start calling students by their names. Students can quickly make paper name tents using 5 X 7 note cards and prop them on their desks. Have them write their first name using a bold marker or Sharpie. This allows you to refer to them by name from the very start. Using a student’s name creates a sense of familiarity. When you know someone, you call them by name.

7. Address the whole class:
Once the school day gets started, address the whole class about how we’re all feeling jittery today. Assure the students that these feelings are normal and will fade with time. Say something along the lines of, “I’m nervous, too, and I’m the teacher! I get nervous every year on the first day!” By addressing the whole class as a group, the anxious student won’t feel singled out.

Next week in part two of our August Anxiety series, we will examine strategies for managing anxietywith your colleagues/peers.



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