United Teaching

Starting Secondary School

First day nerves – how to prepare, keep calm and carry on

Starting secondary school is an exciting time but can also feel quite daunting. It’s natural to feel nervous on your first day and you can guarantee that everyone else will be feeling just the same. So here are five top tips to help you prepare for and remain calm during your first day at secondary school.

Practise your new route to school

Your route to secondary school will be brand new. In the week leading up to the start of term, plan your route and do a practice run with a friend or family member. Time how long the route takes, whether you’re getting the train, bus or cycling. This will give you peace of mind on your first day that you’re not going to get lost on the way and that you will arrive on time!

Open up to a new classmate

If you are feeling anxious or worried about a particular part of your first day, share how you’re feeling with one of your new classmates. You’ll find that confiding in them and being open is the best approach to forming new friendships. Your new classmate may be able to offer you some advice or even share their own concerns with you. A problem shared is sometimes a problem solved.

Trust your instinct

The trick is to not overthink everything. If you’re in one of your new classes and your teacher asks a question out loud that you know the answer to, then answer it! You’ll find that once you’ve put up your hand and answered a question once, it becomes easier and easier each time after. Your classmates won’t judge you, even if the answer is wrong, but they will remember you for being brave. And as the great poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde said: “There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”.

Embrace your independence

With all these changes comes a greater independence, so embrace it! You can arrange a time to meet your new school friends each morning and walk to school together. Sign up to take part in an after school club or activity which you’re passionate about and you’ll make friends with people that love the same things as you. If you are ever in doubt, just think to yourself…what is the worst that could happen? You’ll find that those first day nerves will become a distant memory, quicker than you could ever have imagined.

Top tips for day one

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  • Know your route to school, you don’t want to get lost on your first day
  • Make sure your school bag is packed with everything you need
  • Talk to your new classmates as it will help you make new friends
  • Be open and talk about yourself, that way people can get to know you
  • Always smile and be friendly to others

Making new friends

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  • Join a club or after school activity to meet new people

  • Be yourself and you’ll make friends with people like yourself

  • Smile and be approachable

  • Make an effort to speak to people even of it takes you out of your comfort zone

  • Don’t rush this: the most genuine friends come gradually as you get to know each other, not by trying to be instantly popular

  • You will be seated with different people in different subjects and will have to work together. This is a good opportunity to get to know your classmates and form new friendships.

Year 7: A day in the life

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  • Make sure you have the correct equipment and kit for the day ahead

  • Embrace new opportunities and get involved in an after school activity or club

Favourite thing about secondary school

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  • Stay organised by using your planner, school map and timetable

  • Get involved with classroom activities, especially those that are new to you

  • Look at all the after school activities your school has on offer and pick one that feels right for you

Getting Lost

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  • Always have your timetable with you so you know where you are supposed to be next

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are lost

  • You’ll get lots of practical help: a visiting day before you start at the new school; being shown around the school; a map of the school in your planner; people showing you the way and the routines

  • You will be given a buddy to help you, probably from the class above – feel free to ask them lots of questions, they’ll remember exactly how you feel!

  • Don’t expect to remember it all at once, or to know everything on the first day

Will I lose my old friends?

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  • Keep in touch and make sure you see each other outside of school time

  • Don’t let other commitments or new friends get in the way of making time for your old friends

  • Introduce your new friends to your old friends

  • Don’t worry about not being as close or seeing them as regularly, a good friendship can pick up at any time

  • Send an occasional encouraging text or give them a call for a chat, your old friends are probably worried about losing you as a friend too

  • After a couple of weeks, organise a cinema trip or other activity with a few of your old friends to compare notes on new schools and just catch up

Coping with classwork

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  • Always listen to your teacher at the start of the lesson, if you're unsure about anything just ask

  • Don’t interrupt when the teacher is talking

  • Don’t expect to know everything when you first start, it will take time to settle in

  • If you lose your timetable, ask your form tutor for another copy or ask your friends what lesson you have next

  • Always check you have enough detail about your homework so that you remember what to do when you read it at home

  • Swap phone numbers with some classmates so you can call them if you’re not sure about something – they’ll want to do the same with you!

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