I’m a principal of a middle school. And as much as we try to prepare the new 7th graders for middle school, it is always a challenge.
They go from an elementary school where they have two main teachers all day, are walked to all of their classes as a group, and even go to the bathroom as a class most of the time, to a middle school where they have 6 teachers throughout the course of their schedule, they have lockers (with combinations), they are responsible for walking to their classes on their own, in general they have a tremendous amount of independence that they have never had before.
Things happen and sometimes kids get lost. On the first day of school I was working with one of my 8th grade teachers to deploy iPads to students and a 7th grade student walked into his classroom by mistake.
Rather than simply tell the child they were in the wrong room and point him in the right direction, the teacher stopped what he was doing and said, “Wow, you did all the right things, and followed your schedule great. Sometimes there are mistakes and we end up in the wrong place.” Then the teacher walked with the student to the right class, never once making him feel like he had done anything wrong.
Later on, in that same teacher’s class, that same student wandered into the class asking for help. He didn’t have the teacher; he was just lost, again. Once more during the day, the student asked the same teacher for student. The student was in 7th grade and the teacher was an 8th grade teacher so the teacher never had this teacher on his schedule, yet he kept coming to this teacher for help.
During lunch on the second day of school I asked the student if he had any problems on the first day. He said he got lost a few times, but there was a history teacher who helped him.
I asked, “Was he one of your teachers?”
He replied with a grin, “No, but he was so nice to me the first time I got lost in his room, I decided that he would probably help me when I got lost again.”
And he was right. Taking the time to validate the student for trying and not making him feel bad about being lost, this teacher not only helped him find his way on the first day of school but he also helped him feel confident about asking for help.