To Strive, to Seek, to Find, and Not to Yield: Greeting the New School Year with Confidence

September 11, 2018

by Hillary Jade, Program Manager

The new school year has started and an exciting year of learning is in full swing! Whether you’ve just started at a brand new school or in a new class, here are some tips on greeting the new school year with confidence, meeting new people and keeping yourself grounded.

1. Let your clothes speak for you. Meeting new people is not easy for some students. (In fact, it can be difficult for adults, too!) If you want to engage your peers in conversation, but don’t quite know what to say, see if you can get them to speak up first. Do you have a favorite t-shirt? Maybe one that’s unique or one-of-a kind? You’d be surprised at how easily a t-shirt, hat or pin can start up a conversation. My favorite animal is the hedgehog and whenever I wear this shirt, people inevitably ask me about it:

new school year

You might have a t-shirt from your last vacation, a hat with your Harry Potter house on it, a pin or button from your favorite band or a jersey from a popular – or even little-known – sports team. Letting your classmates know what your interests are by expressing yourself through fashion will lead to some great conversations.

2. Remember to breathe. After a summer of camp, vacation, barbecues and adventures with friends and family, getting back into the school year routine can seem daunting. It may seem counterintuitive to add another “routine” to your day, but consider meditation. Taking 10-20 minutes to yourself each day to quietly reflect and focus on breathing can help center you and restore a sense of calm. You can do it in silence or with music, or use any of several apps to guide you. You’ll be surprised how something so seemingly simple can have such a large, positive effect on your well-being and outlook.

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3. Digital detox: Though a lot of schools now have a one-to-one tablet or laptop program, and more and more schoolwork has a technology focus, make sure you find time – throughout the week, if not every day – to unplug, especially at night. Swap your e-reader for a good, old-fashioned book; play a board game instead of a video game; draw, paint or sketch; pick up an instrument instead of an iPod. Being in nature is also a great way to recalibrate, whether it’s taking a walk, playing Frisbee, riding your bike or having a picnic. Swap screen time for green time for fresh air and a fresh perspective.

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4. Write it down!: Let’s face it: our lives are hectic. After school hours are spent shuttling from piano to soccer to art class to scouts. Sometimes, it’s nice to take a minute and reflect on all the things we’re grateful for – including the people and opportunities we’re afforded. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great, intentional act that can quickly turn even the most hectic mind calm. A gratitude journal can be blank and freeform or include prompts with different ways of experiencing thanks, such as “What are three sounds or songs you heard today that made you think of something you’re grateful for?” or “What is something someone else did today that made you grateful to have that person in your life?”

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5. Replace “Yes, but…” with “Yes, and…” One of the most basic rules of improv comedy is that you don’t counter what someone says to you; you run with it. If your scene partner hands you a “phone” and says an alien is on the line, you can’t say, “Yes, but that’s ridiculous.” Rather, you must then begin speaking with that alien: “Yes, and he just told me that he wants to play baseball this afternoon.” And so the scene continues. This is a great strategy to employ in everyday life – especially when trying new or challenging things. If someone asks if you had a good day at school, instead of responding with, “Yes, but math was really hard and I don’t think I’m going to like it,” try “Yes, and I’m looking forward to understanding these new math concepts that were introduced today.” A negative reaction can be an easy way out if something is frustrating you, but intentionally reacting positively will ultimately pay off much more.

6. Vary your activities: A good rule of thumb is to be involved in one activity you enjoy because you’re good at it, one social activity and one activity that is new or challenging, but also enjoyable. Maybe you’re not a confident public speaker, but you’re involved with a community theater group that requires you to cultivate that confidence in front of large groups. If you can make 100 free-throws in a row, you’ve developed a skill. By stepping back to the three-point line and working to master that skill, you’re not only developing muscles, but also valuable muscle memory. Greeting challenges with confidence and an open mind will have lasting benefits both in and outside the classroom.

What are some of your favorite back-to-school tips and strategies for success?

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