Mindsteps Mentor: A New Student - Now? | Mindsteps Inc.

Mindsteps Mentor: A New Student – Now?

BadBoyDear New Teachers,

Congratulations on completing your sixth month of teaching. As you continue your excellent work with your students, you are seeing that teaching requires commitment, energy, and patience, especially as the school year progresses. I commend you for staying focused on your work and on your students’ growth as we move through the second half of the year.

This month I want to discuss a challenge many teachers face around this time of the year — how to handle a new student who may be assigned to your class and who, because he is new, may pose a challenge for classroom management. Working with such a student can be particularly hard if he is overly talkative at inappropriate times, disturbs other students while they were working, or fails to complete much work himself. It can feel as if your once cooperative class has been transformed by his presence in your class and that others are negatively influenced by this student’s off-task activities. You now are experiencing a challenge that is common to groups when a new member joins.

As challenging as this might be, it is important to keep in mind that in his way, this new student is trying to fit into his new environment. His way of being noticed and trying to make friends may be to act different from the other focused students, to challenge the norms of classroom environment, and to prod you into interacting with him, even in a negative way.

Your challenges in this situation are to return the other students to their previous cooperative ways while helping the new student establish an appropriate presence in the room. Here are a few suggestions that can help. First, as soon as possible, you should meet with the new student and describe your expectations for his work habits, which, when adjusted, could modify his classroom conduct. Explain that his academic success is your primary concern and offer some suggestions to assist in catching up with the rest of the class – lunch time help, after school assistance, support during any student time that is part of the school schedule. You might combine his help session with support for another student or two, who might provide appropriate social contacts as he gets to know other students. With these gestures you will be addressing his need for your attention and re-focusing him on the academics that are most important.

This challenge is likely to require more than these suggestions, so persistently pursue support, rather than punishment, with the student’s academic success as your goal. Contact (and document as you do for all interactions) the student’s parents or guardians, his counselor, your administrator, and any other teachers who might be working with the student – perhaps a physical education teacher, who might view the student differently in an active physical environment. As the days pass, he will be less anxious about being new, and he will find a social group to provide peer interaction. Finally, continue your positive approach to every student’s success in your class.

As your mentor, I have been trying to provide suggestions and encouragement during this first year. Because you are so dedicated and determined to see your students grow, my role has been easy.

Keep up that positive attitude!

Share with us your greatest challenge with a new student mid-year below.