The Student Welcome Packet

It might seem crazy what I’m ’bout to say

As state testing (for some this year and for most or all of us in a normal non pandemic year) looms in the near future, days get warmer, and the school year winds down, many educators are thinking towards next year. Sure, a lot of thoughts are also aimed at the summer and vacation plans, but some thoughts are focused on the next school year. We have almost completed what might very well be the toughest school year of all time. One for the record books for sure, so naturally we need a summer break, but thoughts of next year still linger.

Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break

I recently accepted a position with a new district for next year, and with that waiting to be finalized by a school board vote, I’ve begun thinking about ways I can support the large amount of military students transferring in and out all year. How will I make sure that all students landing in my classes will feel welcomed, included, supported, and at least not anxious about entering yet another school district?

I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space

Many teachers and districts may have some of this in place digitally, but after twenty-six years of teaching, a student supportive lightning bolt finally hit me! The student welcome packet! A folder that contains everything a new student would need to feel included and find places to belong within my classroom, our school, and our district. There’s nothing worse than that feeling of being out of the “loop,” so all packets will be created with this in mind.

With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way

Each new student packet will include a happy message from me that also tells a little bit about me. It will explain my passion for education, hobbies, family, and a fun (or weird) fact. I will set it up exactly like the student survey I will also be issuing through a Google Slides deck. As students enter my class, they will complete the information on the Google Slide labeled with their name. Once we have our student portraits taken, I will create a booklet of our Google Slides, and I will add a picture of each student in the class on their respective Slides.

Huh, because I’m happy

The new student will get to learn about his, her, or their classmates, see their responses to the questions before entering their own. My current district creates a book like this for seniors, and I’ve been in charge of that with my yearbook staff for several years. I should have thought of this sooner. We currently create our Senior Book on Google Slides, so that is easy to share and update digitally as well as easy to have as a printed copy. I would do this with my class book as well. Naturally, Google Slides makes this easy to print and share digitally.

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

The rest of my packet will include things like: class expectations, class syllabus, the codes to join my tech tools or to sign up for them, club and activities information, sports practices and head coach information, and any other information about the community and district that will help new students feel included and find a place to which they can belong. I would also like to include a visual seating chart to assist them with knowing who their classmates are as quickly as possible. Names have power, and knowing the names of everyone in the room can be very empowering for new students. Everyone wants to feel like they are in “the loop,” so why don’t we package that up into a packet?

Because I’m happy

Even in the final weeks of school, new students arrive in our districts all across the nation, and probably across the globe. What are we doing to include them? Make them feel at ease? Help them seamlessly engage in our learning without the added time spent adding them to our various platforms? I had a new student today with twenty-five days left in the school year. Did I make her feel welcome, included, and safe, both physically and educationally? I hope. I fear that it may have more closely resembled me throwing her to the wolves. Fortunately, my students are a very inclusive bunch, and they picked up my slack. I am more determined than ever now to compile and distribute my New Student Welcome Packets for what remains of this year.

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

As I learn more about my new district, I will determine what else to include in my New Student Welcome Packet. It will be made with love, which we all know, is the very best ingredient when creating things for students. If you have some information like this already prepared, but it is only digital or is in a variety of places and not under “one roof,” so to speak, then consider also making a New Student Packet for your students too. While we’re on this subject, new teachers would benefit from a new teacher packet too! But that is a subject for another post.

Because I’m happy

Heading titles are partial lyrics from Pharrell Williams’ song Happy, lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group.

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