At the beginning of each school year there are moments where I am surprised by many students’ reactions to learning of the rules they need to follow. They seem puzzled by the basic school rules that enable the day to run smoothly. It is easy to forget that first-time students are being forced to make a lot of changes to their behaviour all at once. I hope that by highlighting the difficulties new learners face I can draw attention to the ways teachers can support their students’ understanding and appreciation of school rules.
To try and understand exactly how new learners might feel I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of a little one struggling with the changes they have to deal with. The following challenges I capture below are therefore written from the perspective of a new student.
The five most common challenges for new students that I see are:
- Being told when they can and can’t eat!
“Until now I simply asked (or cried) for food and it was brought to me. If it didn’t come quickly enough, I was apologised to. People were even proud of me when I ate and made comments such as “Good eating Libby”. The other day, I went to my bag to get a banana out of my lunch box and I got in trouble. What? All of a sudden I’m in this strange place where I have to wait for a bell to ring before I can eat. I’ve tried to tell my teacher that I’m hungry, when I’m hungry, but I’ve been constantly reminded that it’s not lunch time yet. To make it even worse, one day I wasn’t hungry when the bell went at “lunch time” and I was told that I had to eat!”
- Having to ask to go to the toilet!
“I’ve finally become toilet trained and make it in time, usually. Now that I’ve started school, I have just found out that I have to ask my teacher if I can go to the toilet. I mean, sometimes, when I need to go, I need to go. What if the teacher’s busy when I am busting? I also hardly know my teacher and don’t really feel comfortable asking if I can do something let alone interrupting her/him. And what if after all that stress and waiting my teacher doesn’t let me go? I might end up having an accident!”
- Someone who isn’t their parent/guardian telling them what to do all day!
“This person/teacher tells me when to sit, where to sit, who to sit next to, how to sit, and the list goes on. I even have to put my hand up when I want to speak. The other day I felt like playing with the blocks in the play corner. My teacher said that it was mat time and that I had to come and sing songs with the other kids. I don’t even like singing! I said that I didn’t have to because my parent/guardian didn’t say I had to and gee did I get in trouble!”
- Realising that they have to go to school for more than a couple of days.
“I was so excited about visiting this place called school. I mean, I’ve been to Disney Land and the zoo, so I thought school would be fun. I went to school for a couple of days. I enjoyed doing some drawing, reading, playing on the slide and making some friends. One day when I got home, I said that I’d had a great time and was ready to do something else. I was ready to move on. Then I was told that I had to go almost EVERY DAY! How could this be? Never in my life had I had to spend so much time away from home.”
- Having to remember to look after SO many things.
“All of a sudden there are so many things that I have to look after. I have a bag, a lunchbox, a hat and mmm I can’t remember what else. I’m only 5! People are always asking me to go and get my pencil or my sharpener and sometimes I can’t find them. I never asked for all of these “things”. Can’t someone else look after them for me?”
Credit to Creative Clips for the graphic.