The beginning of the school year is an exciting time — it is when students reunite with friends and meet the classmates and teachers they will be spending the rest of the year with. However, students who don’t join Paly at the beginning of the year come into a brand new school with new students, facilities and limited guidance to help them transition into Paly life.
To address this issue, Paly needs to help make the transition for new students easier and more welcoming, specifically for students who transfer to Paly during the school year.
It is clear the school cares about new students and their transitions to Paly, with events such as Freshman Orientation and the program “Paly Pals” connecting experienced upperclassmen with freshmen, giving them a feel for the school and introducing them to new peers.
However, these resources are only offered to freshmen entering at the beginning of the year and are not available to students of all grades who enter Paly during the school year. Transitioning to a new school in the middle of the school year can be especially hard because everybody has their friends in and out of class, and catching up on school work can be difficult with the number of classes students take.
This was true for junior Emma Siskens, who transferred to Paly in the middle of her freshman year. Fortunately, Siskens had friends at Paly from previous years in the Palo Alto Unified School District who showed her to her classes. However, Siskens felt like she didn’t receive any transition help from Paly’s admin.
Siskens wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Junior Fiza Usman transferred from Gunn High School. For the first month Usman said she felt like an outcast and wished that a administrator checked up on her to see if she was adjusting to the school or needed anything outside of class. To combat this problem, Associated Student Body (ASB) Social Justice and School Climate Commissioners and seniors Giselle Navarro and Noor Navaid have decided to host a student-run lunch twice first semester and once second semester. At the lunch, ASB provides food and plays ice-breaker games in the Performing Arts Center. This lunch offers transfer students a way to meet other students, teachers and ASB officers, which helps them transition to the school.
While this might help in the moment, in the long run, three lunches throughout the entire year does not provide enough support or guidance to create a healthy, fun way to get to know one’s new school. It is crucial admin take a step towards creating a pathway or program to help new students transition to the District.
First, just as freshman are given a tour of the school before classes start, so should transfer students. Paly can seem huge and unnavigable at first, and a tour either given by an admin or student can help alleviate the stress of trying to find where to go throughout the day. The tour could include showing the new student where each of their classes are and pointing out the main areas on campus, such as the quad and Media Arts Center.
Second, transfer students should be given the option to “shadow” a student who is in the same grade and taking similar classes.
This would give the new student a look into how classes run, meet other students and learn the confusing bell schedule. This Paly student could also act as a buddy throughout the year in case the new student has any questions about Paly in general or specific questions about school. Along with shadowing a student, it is crucial that new students get to meet their teachers before diving into a class midway through the year where curriculum has already been taught. Meeting teachers would make a new student’s academic transition a lot easier. Every teacher has their own teaching styles and grading rubrics and making sure to go over their expectations would allow the student to understand how each class runs.
This would also be a time where teachers could catch the new student up on the activities and learning targets for their class. Additionally, the teacher could get to know the student, just as they have gotten to know the rest of their students.
It is time that admin take into consideration the hard transition for transfer students entering Paly in the middle of the year. Without any help, it is difficult navigate their way into Paly life and can cause unnecessary stress that can be easily alleviated.
With some simple solutions, Paly has the ability to make the transition for these students a lot easier.