The first week of school is done. In our house that includes 5 publicly funded schools. Two teachers, one high school student, one middle school student, one junior student and one primary student. Needless to say, our house is always full of first week jitters. This year was particularly full of new challenges and adventures. We moved into a new house in a new city on September 1st. A few days later, at new times and new bus stops, all our children faced the unknown of a new school year. I am opening another new school and I am thrilled to be back in the role of teacher librarian. My husband is returning to the same school but, with new administration with whom he needs to build a positive relationship. The youngest two had the biggest change – a brand new, much bigger school (with that school bus ride to boot)!
Every year thousands of educators, office staff, bus drivers, parents and, most importantly, students feel the first week jitters. For some it is a simple feeling of butterflies (perhaps excitement or even dread), but for other students it is authentic and painful fear and anxiety. Countless tears, sleepless nights, emotional outbursts and physical symptoms can develop in this first week of school.
So how can we help these students cope, understand and moreover embrace/express these feelings? As a parent, an educator and a mental health advocate, how can I support our students who truly struggle through the first week?
Society somewhat says:
“Tough luck kid!”
“We all went to school!”
“What makes you so special?”
But when your child is stressed, you are stressed, your spouse is stressed, your family is stressed – and the cycle continues…
Individual educators, school staff and school communities go above and beyond for many of these students – I see that every day. Yet I always wonder if we (as a system) can do better? Can I do more to help families adjust and support their own children?
I do believe that children are resilient and that they will be ok.
But in that moment
- when the tears arrive,
- or the tummy hurts,
- or their inner voice tells them to run for door,
- or that mommy/daddy/caregiver is never coming to pick them up
- or that they are a failure on the first day of school
THEY DON’T KNOW THAT THEY ARE GOING TO BE OK!
So I will make sure that I am extra kind, patient and aware – because week 2 is coming and for many of our learners the jitters are still there, maybe smaller, and just maybe growing by the minute!