Ask Mary Jo
Tips for handling change at school
Q.I start middle school soon, and I’m so afraid. I move schools this year. What if no one likes me? What if I don’t have anyone to eat with at lunch? What if the people on the bus are mean to me? What if people make fun of me? I don’t play sports. I’m kind of different, you know?
Mary Jo’s response: Change can be frightening. You’re not alone. Transitioning to something new can be a life skill that will help you when you enter high school, leave home, start college, enter the military or begin a new job. Facing your fear is a great first step. I immediately asked our wise young people for advice; I started middle school a long time ago! Their words follow. Here are some tips from me:
1. Be yourself. All of our peer educators stressed being faithful to your personal likes and dislikes. Don’t try to remake yourself to fit in. Being different is OK.
2. Smile. Be respectful of others. Treat others as you’d like to be treated.
3. Stay away from drama. Avoid gossip and be cautious of relationships that can consume your time.
4. Focus on your classes. Remember why you’re in school. Study and learn. Do your homework. Don’t get behind on assignments.
5. Prepare for school. Decide what you’ll wear. Be clean. Trust that you will be accepted – confidence is contagious.
6. Get involved. There are many school activities besides sports. Volunteer for service clubs. Try out for band or chorus.
7. Keep priorities straight. Take notes and pay attention in class. Start each day fresh and positive.
8. Stay connected. Talk with friends from your old school. You’re not too old to share your day with a parent or trusted adult. Ask for support if needed.
9. Get to know your teachers. Your school is created to help you grow. Take advantage of teachers, guidance counselors and school support systems.
10. Remember that you’ll get through it. Take school one day at a time. In only five days, you’re given a weekend. Time passes quickly. Try to have fun. Good luck!
Peer Educator responses:
Raelynn Marie Sanders: Don’t worry about being liked, just worry about being yourself. If you can’t like you for you, who can? There’s nothing wrong with being different, because without difference there would be no artwork, or TV, or outfits, or even music. Just be who you are, and the rest will make sense eventually
David Pascoe: We’ve all been afraid of something new when we don’t know what to expect. Like Lynn said, if you just be yourself, keep your cool, treat everyone with respect and kindness, you won’t go wrong. This is a major point in your life, and I’m sure you’re gonna make lasting memories and friendships. So do your best at being yourself, and you should have nothing to worry about. Know that people are rooting for you and you’re never alone.
Sasha Edwards: Amen to that. You don’t have to play sports or join clubs. You don’t have to fit in. If you’re nice to other people, one of them is going to start being nice to you, and another, and so on, until before you know it all of that insecurity is gone. Just like it was never even there. Be yourself.
Samantha Duncan: I can definitely relate to this because I have switched schools so many times. I think the most awkward and hardest part of going to a new school is lunch. So for me, when I went the people I talked to in my first few classes … I sat next to them at lunch. It’s not like you can’t change your table throughout the year, but I understand how that’s hard. I think that when you are the new person everyone wants to say hi and it’s a great time to make tons of friends. The most important thing to do is have a smile on your face – that way you seem open to talk to. I am shy, so that really helped me. And there are so many people that go to school, so I don’t think you are different as much as you are not part of one group of kids. I know it’s very scary, but just try to be as relaxed as possible. I hope this helps!
Anna Essig: Oh, that’s so sad. I was terrified when I moved schools. There are a lot of people who will want to talk with you. At the Teen Center we all respect everyone, and you can be yourself. Stop in and see.
Amber Paul: Well, I know what it’s like to be afraid of moving schools and being new. I’ve been through four different districts. It is hard, I know, but even if you’re scared just try and start off by talking about something you like. I made a very good friend while I was in shoes similar to yours simply by talking about a show I liked. I discovered that we had it in common. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of people that will like you. It might be a handful at first, but few friends that are amazing will always be better than many that aren’t as great. You’ll find someone to eat with, no worries there. I won’t sugar coat it for you, some kids may be mean and some may make fun of you. I was never anything but nice to people, but because I was different I was picked on. But trust me, no matter how different you are, everyone will be just as nervous as you will be that first day. Someone will surely take a liking to you. Just hold your head up high and go for it. Don’t let people that don’t matter to you get you down. I promise you that nothing they can make fun of about you will mean anything when you’re older. Be yourself and have fun. Good luck.