Moving to a new school is always scary, whether you’re moving from primary school to high school or into a new school in a different area. What can you do to make it easier?
My kids are old hands at this because they’ve moved school so often, even going into schools in a new country where they haven’t known the language. We’ve lived in Germany, Switzerland and UK and they’ve been to local schools speaking German, French and English. It wasn’t ever easy but they’ve made great friends who they still keep in touch with now that they’ve moved on.
I asked them for their advice on moving to a new school.
1. Get Ready
“How are you getting to school? Have a trial run a week or so before school starts. You’ll feel a bit daft but on the first morning, you’ll be a lot more confident if you know how to get to school.” — Cat, 16 years
Sounds obvious but being prepared really helps to settle the nerves. Don’t be running around on the first morning, looking for your calculator or your geometry set. Get everything ready a few days earlier so you’ve time to buy any missing items. Pack your lunch the evening before if you can. Know how to get to school and go to bed on time so that you aren’t struggling to get up in the morning.
2. You Are Not Alone
“Everyone else is in the same boat, even if they are playing it cool and acting really casual” — Connor, 14 years
Even if you are moving into a new school in a different area or country, then you are likely not alone in being nervous and worried. Most schools have at few new pupils every year so there is a good chance there is someone else around your age starting school with you. It’s ok to be nervous – ask your parents about their first day in a new job. I bet they had butterflies in their tummy too! And I’ll tell you something else. Your parents will be sitting at home or at work on your first day of school, worrying about you and hoping that you are ok.
And finally – some of your teachers will also be new in the school and they are nervous too. Even the ones who look really calm and collected will be a bit anxious that everything goes well and their new pupils enjoy their class.
3. Take Your Time
“Don’t panic and latch onto the first person you meet.” — Cat
When you get to the new school, don’t feel that you have to rush to make new friends. It may seem like everyone pairs up immediately but often the first person you bump into and start chatting to doesn’t end up being your friend. It’s ok to take a moment to look around, listen to the other kids and suss out which of them sounds like a person you’d get on with.
4. Change is Normal
“By the end of your time at the school, you’ll probably not still be friends with the same folk you knew at the start. You change, they change, and you drift away and make new friends who better suit the person you become. That’s ok” — Cat
If you already know some of the kids from your previous school, you might feel that you want to stick with them for a bit. Don’t let that stop you from looking around and making new friends. And don’t feel that you have to stay friends with them for the rest of your time at the school.
5. Just Start Talking to Someone
“When I went to my new school in Scotland, a girl came up to me and said that she didn’t know anyone there and asked if she could be friends with me. I thought it was really cool and we ended up being really good friends.” — Cat
I know it is a LOT easier to say than to do but the person you start talking to might be really grateful that they didn’t have to make the first move. You may not find a friend for life but at least you weren’t standing around alone!
6. Be Kind
“There’s nothing more annoying that those kids who swagger around, shouting loudly and showing off.” — Connor
Some loud kids are just extroverted people, some of them are bullies, but a lot of kids who do this are trying to cover up their nerves. In an effort to sound cool, they show off, tell tall tales, or make snarky comments about others. Don’t be mean about others in an attempt to be funny, or to impress others. People respond well to kind and friendly people so just be yourself!
7. Connect With Your New Friends
“If you are already using social media, then find your new friends online. Sometimes it can be less awkward chatting online and you can arrange to meet up outwith school.” — Cat
If you don’t yet have social media accounts, then exchange phone numbers with your new friends. Not only can you contact them to double check you’ve understood your maths homework correctly, you can also arrange to meet before school so you can walk in together.
7. Raise Your Hand
“When the teacher asks a question, most kids don’t want to be the one she calls on. If she asks something that you know the answer to, stick up your hand. That way she won’t call on you next time – when you maybe won’t know the answer.” — Connor
You don’t have to jump out of your chair like Hermione Grainger every time the teacher asks a question but it’s a good idea to show willingness to participate. Once the teacher has called on you, she’ll turn her attention to others and you can relax for a little bit without worrying you’ll be asked something you don’t know.
8. Manage Your Expectations
“Maybe you were great in maths in your old school but struggle in the new one, or you were top of the class in French but now sit next to someone who is much better than you. Don’t panic – and don’t compare yourself to others!” — Cat
Definitely DON’T go into a lesson saying loudly to everyone, ‘I’m really great at this subject’. In your new school, you may find you are ahead in some subjects but behind in others. You’ll feel even worse if you’ve just announced that you are awesome and you find out you are not as great as you thought you were! Don’t worry, it will all even out over time.
9. Have an Emergency Calm Down Plan
“When I’m really stressed, I find a quiet spot and listen to my favourite music. It helps to calm me down and then I can go back to the next class.” — Cat
What helps you feel calm? Maybe it is spending a moment talking to a friend, or listening to music. Or just counting to 20 slowly. An app such as Calm can teach you how to meditate – even if you aren’t allowed to use your phone in school.
10. Give it Time but Get Help if You Need It
“The first week is the worst. It will get better! Speak to your mum and dad or a teacher if you are being bullied or you are really unhappy. They’ll try to help you”. — Cat
You might be one of the lucky ones, and you love your new school from day one. If you don’t then just hang around for a bit. Once everyone settles in a bit and you know your way around, it will most likely improve. If you are still really struggling, don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to someone. A friend or your parent, or perhaps your school has guidance counsellors or a buddy system in place.
More Suggestions from Readers
Don’t Worry if they Speak Funny
“Don’t worry if they speak a bit funny, because they are not doing it to annoy you. It’s just their accent. When we arrived in Cyprus, I thought they were speaking in dialect to leave me out, and I didn’t like it. But they always speak like that anyway.” — Nikolas, 11 years
A bonus suggestion from a reader, Nikolas. A great reminder that if you move to a new country, or even a new part of your home country, the kids may speak differently. Either a completely different language or a dialect or accent that sounds weird and unfamiliar. Some people pick up accents really fast and some keep their original accent forever – maybe in a year you’ll sound exactly like your new friends. Or you’ll always sound a little bit different.