In her 26 years as a classroom teacher, Laura Williams, now principal of Harvard Elementary School in Englewood, never got any advice on how to ease new students into her classroom.
“No one ever told me what do with these kids,” she says. “There was no official policy and no direction from the school on what to do for them.”
DePaul University Professor Leonard Jason seeks to remedy that situation through the book Helping Transfer Students: Strategies for Educational and Social Readjustment. Jason is the lead author.
“In the worst of situations, all schools need is creativity to see and find the resources,” Jason says. “Often they are right in the community, and they don’t cost much.”
He offers the following suggestions:
Hold a mini-orientation to review school rules, identify key school personnel and share other important information. Encourage the students to ask questions about the school and its activities.
Create and distribute a “welcome booklet” that includes a welcome to the school; a list of important school personnel; pages for class schedules and the like; lists of special activities, clubs and holiday activities; information about the special concerns of new students; and information from the student’s teacher, such as rules for the classroom.
Give the new student a buddy, a same-sex, same-age “veteran” that the student can go to for help. The buddy should be chosen with care and should be a high-achiever who values education and can help set a good example.
Give new students a tour of the school.
Get a small group of new students together to let them talk about how it feels to transfer and how the new school compares to their old one.
Tutor new students to bring them up to speed academically. If a school doesn’t have extra staff to do this, it could make arrangements with a nearby high school, whose students could be trained as tutors and receive school credit. Jason advises having tutors use direct instruction, a teaching method he has found to be effective with transfer students. “And because tutors follow a script, it is easy for them to use,” he notes.
Train parents or other relatives to serve as tutors and get them to tutor the transfer students at home.
Increase the awareness of school staff about what it means for a child to be new at a school and what their special needs are