At the beginning of every school year, children of all ages will have new experiences: new faces, teachers, friends, classrooms, schools, routines, and of course, academics. Throughout this back to school season many kids will be adding a whole level of newness as they transition from pre-k to kindergarten, elementary to middle school, middle to high school, or high school to college. Amongst all of these students is a group of military-connected students – those kids who come from homes with at least one parent who is a military service member. Many of these students will be adding a transition to their education life cycle by going to a new school. You won’t necessarily be able to pick these students out from their classmates just by looking at them. You will certainly pick them out of a crowd of their peers if you LISTEN to them.
Here is an example of a back-to-school conversation from a middle school orientation:
Teacher: Okay everyone, what school are you coming from?
Local Kids: White Oaks, Fairview, Terra Centre, Oak Hill
Military Kids: Tabb, Ft. Concho, Beaver Creek, Ramstein, Eglin
Teacher and Local Kids: Where are those schools located?
Military Kids: Well, we’re military kids; those schools are in VA, TX, OH, Germany, and FL.
As the new school year descends upon us, it is critical for educators and returning students to understand how to help new students acclimate, feel accepted, find their niche, and fit in. Asking new kids “where they are from” is a great conversation starter. As the conversation continues, encourage kids to follow up with questions like:
What is different here?
What is the same?
What were your mascot and school colors?
How big were your classes?
Were you in any activities?
Once kids start talking, they will connect quickly on common topics like books, music, sports, gaming, technology, and pop culture. Kids from the military community have lots of great stories to share. As a new student, they want to know about the new school community they now belong to, so they can start to feel at home. With the support of classmates, educators and parents, by the end of the first quarter if those new students are asked, where are you from, they will proudly and easily say …. (insert school name here).