When new student-patients enter a hospital or treatment center classroom, it can be an overwhelming, scary, and/or uncertain time. School often brings stress for students in the regular environment, and the added pressure of academics while undergoing treatment may cause some student to experience anxiety.
Other students may be hesitant to participate, or may feel nervous entering a new class where the teacher and students are all brand new to them. By finding ways to encourage students to participate and feel connected from the very beginning, hospital teachers will set a welcoming tone for new students who are likely to join any (or even every day).
Here are a few suggestions on ways to help new students integrate into a established hospital classroom.
- Establish a classroom routine that is easy for students to grasp and explain to others. When it is clear that the class functions in a certain manner, students are able to understand how the class itself works, and what is expected of them. Encourage students to help show new student-patients key aspects of the class, including where supplies are, what the rules are, and how the class is facilitated.
- Have packets or materials prepared for new students, and provide them with their own welcome packet upon arrival. When students see that their arrival has been anticipated, it makes them feel a part of the group more quickly.
- Give students a job in the classroom. Student-patients are accustomed to being a part of the classroom community—which often includes completing jobs to help the class run smoothly. Identify jobs that students can complete easily and without preparation. This might include helpers to pass out materials, pencil collectors, writers or data collectors and timekeepers for class activities. Even the smaller jobs can help bring a sense of purpose and belonging to students who enjoy helping their teachers.
- Get the Scoop: When new students arrive in class, give them a few minutes to fill out a fun cut out with information about themselves and their interests and either post it or allow them to present it to the class if interested. This ice cream sundae example is an amusing take on the average getting to know you survey. Other alternatives include a name map, visual bibliography, or collage.
- Communicate clearly and demonstrate support. Once students have entered the classroom and have been introduced or shown how to complete tasks by another student helper, take a few moments to quickly speak to the student and reassure them on how you will help them maintain academic progress while admitted. Know that they have a teacher in their corner is enough for many student to begin to feel comfortable with the alternative school environment, and experience less stress related to their academic work.
Hospital teachers want their students to feel comfortable and interested in being a part of the classroom. Student-patients will likely experience a wide range of emotions related to enrolling in a hospital education program, however with a welcoming reception they will be able to integrate into programming and make progress on their academic goals.