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25 January 2019

Head of Year 7 Garth Sadler Shares his top tips for settling in to a new school

Published by Rachel Bennett
Renovation-and-refit-projects

Starting at a new school is an exciting time for your child, but it can come with challenges, especially when relocating overseas. The prospect of making new friends, getting to grips with a new curriculum and timetable, and navigating their way around a new campus can be daunting. Our Secondary School teacher Garth Sadler who oversees academic care for Year 7, offers his advice on helping your child to settle in...

How do I support my teenager with transitioning to a new school?

Moving to another school and another country is always challenging for teenagers. They often leave behind good friends, established routines and familiar surroundings. The best way to settle into a new school and country is to get involved in as many activities and with as many people as you can. Singapore is a very western country and chances are that the hobbies your child had back home can be continued here.

Encourage your child to maintain relations with friends back home; keeping these emotional connections is important, especially until new connections are established in Singapore. If you have concerns about your child settling in, talk to the teacher who oversees your child’s welfare (at AIS this is their STRIVE teacher). As every child’s challenges will be unique, having an open discussion with the school can help you devise a customised approach to supporting your child.

Finally, model a positive and open minded approach to living in a new country. Explore new locations together and discuss the benefits of living in a country and culture other than your own.

What can I do if my child is struggling with the curriculum?

A student who says they do not like school is usually suffering from a) lack of purpose at school, b) lack of understanding at school, or c) something is happening outside of school that is causing them concern. Whatever the reason, having an honest and open dialogue with your child is the best way to work through any issues.

Students who lack a goal or end point for their schooling will struggle to be motivated. As Stephen Covey says in ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, begin with the end in mind. It’s hard to be motivated when you don’t know what you’re working towards.

If your child lacks understanding at school, make a time to chat with the relevant teacher. Most importantly, don’t let your child get away with ‘I don’t like that subject, so I’m not going to try in it’. As working adults, there are aspects of our own working lives that we don’t always enjoy, but we still need to perform those duties. Building the resilience to work through things that we don’t always enjoy is an important life skill.

Talk with your child about their hopes for the future (as opposed to your hopes for their future!) and listen carefully to what they tell you. This will help them find direction and take ownership of their life story. Reinforce that by them following their dreams, they are not in any way letting you down. Never underestimate just how much a teenager craves their parent’s approval. A teenager who has direction at school and parental support will overcome most obstacles thrown at them.  

What's the best thing to do if my child isn't performing well at school consistently?

The term ‘performing well at school’, whilst in itself is quite broad, is usually interpreted as ‘getting good marks’. Getting good marks at school is an outcome. Instead we should interpret performing well at school as improving at school. 

If your child seems constantly disorganised, help them establish routines at home. Use a whiteboard in a very visible place at home to record what’s happening during the week. If time management is an issue, establish clear times for homework, play and rest. This may include strict limits on screen time (and clear consequences if these limits are not observed).

If your child reports that they struggle to engage with a particular subject or a particular teacher, make a time to speak to the teacher and share your child’s concerns. Do this with an open mind and with a focus on finding a solution for your child. If your child lacks enthusiasm about school in general, then good communication becomes vitally important.

Find an appropriate moment and talk to your child about what is holding them back at school. Help them brainstorm possible solutions and action they can take to achieve these solutions.

How do I support my child with learning another language?

As parents and teachers we are well aware of the benefits of learning another language. However it can be difficult for adolescents to see these benefits as they often don’t bear fruit until their adult years. The key is to show them the practical side of learning another language. Try labelling items around the house in the desired language. This allows parents to share in the learning as they can start to speak basic words and phrases to their child. In Singapore, if your child is learning Mandarin, take them to a hawker centre and get them to order in Mandarin. The locals will appreciate the effort!

Most importantly, parents must be seen by their child as supportive of them learning the language. When parents make comments such as ‘I don’t know the language, so I can’t help you with your homework’, this tells the child that learning another language is not valued. If time permits, watch films in the desired language with subtitles. If money permits, visit a country where the desired language is spoken and immerse yourself in the language. Allow your child to be the ‘go to’ member of the family when speaking with the locals. They will relish the responsibility and take pride in using their second language for the precise reason they are learning it at school.

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