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New academic year – how to make your students feel welcome

Do you remember the feeling you had at the end of the summer holidays? The new school year is approaching fast and you are filled with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. You are happy to be seeing the friends you have missed through the summer, but you are a little nervous about what to expect from your new teacher, classmates and school. It is a natural part of the school experience, but it can certainly be a little scary. As a teacher, what can you do to settle your new students quickly and make them feel at home in their new environment?

It may seem obvious, but one of the easiest ways to make your students feel comfortable is to let them know who you are. At the start of the day you are a big mystery. Let your students know you are not an ogre and introduce yourself. Show them your human side, connect with them and take away a little of the mystery. If you think it is appropriate, share a little information about yourself; are you a mountain biker or a rock climber, perhaps you are a big film fan? Being able to connect with your pupils on more than an academic level will humanize the experience for both.

Another great way to settle your pupils is to do your best to learn your new students’ names as soon as possible. There is nothing more comforting than to know someone has taken the time to quickly remember who you are, try to make sure you address them warmly every time you see them. People, old and young, naturally warm to people who take an interest in them as an individual and recalling a person’s name is the most important step.

Set your ground rules. Once you have introduced yourself and your students have told you a little about themselves, let your class know what you will expect of them. What sort of teacher are you? You want to connect with your students, but you want them to know where the line is and why they should not cross it. Be friendly but firm and you quickly earn their respect.

Finally, one of the most simple and effective ways to try and make your new students feel at ease on their first day is to smile at them and make eye contact. There is no better way of breaking down barriers, settling nerves and relaxing students daunted by their first day of a new school year than by this simple, honest and welcoming gesture. It is almost impossible to resist a warm, genuine smile and just as hard to not reciprocate.

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