Smile at the new kid

This week I had a good time putting together a contribution for the Amex #passionproject tumblr (which is awesome, by the way): 10 classroom rules for students of any age. I think there’s a lot of good stuff in there, some of it familiar, some of it less so. But my favorite is definitely #9. Smile at the new kid.

10 classroom rules

Nothing made me happier than hearing Sage explain that last year in Kindergarten, she was one girl’s “first friend.” The girl is shy, smart, adorable, the youngest of siblings who go up to college age, and her family is about the coolest ever. I’m so glad we’re getting to know them better.

Plus, being someone’s first friend in class; how great a feeling is that?

I think I know where she gets it. When I was a kid, I was definitely not a pollyanna–I didn’t like the booger-eater or the one weird tall kid who would only run backwards in gym class. But I generally had a soft spot for the new kids.

I  remember the chunky blonde with the ruddy cheeks in first grade who read slower than the other kids and was so happy just to be invited over for a playdate. I remember  the new girl in fourth grade who had transferred from a neighboring school in the district, and made the unforgivable social mistake of wearing a skirt instead of jeans–and not just any skirt, a PREPPY PLAID SKIRT. And loafers no less! A prepster outfit in a world of 70’s tomboys–oof. Nearly unrecoverable violation. And yet? We’re still friends today. I also remember asking the gorgeous new strawberry blonde with the bangs that covered her eyes and her acne scars to hang out with me and my best friend after high school; although that one didn’t work out so well.


On the other side of the coin, I watched Thalia jump up and down with an absurd amount of glee when she discovered that the class bully had a different teacher this year. I hadn’t realized how difficult this girl had made things for her until last night when she described some of the cruel things this girl had said and done. And  while I can’t help but be proud that Thalia handled it on her own, boy do I have fantasies about the things I could say to that other girl’s parents.

I’m channeling Melissa McCarthy in This is 40.

We spend a lot of time worrying about bullies. Do we spend as much time making sure our kids don’t become them? I really don’t know.

I’m sending my kids off to school again next week. (Yes, we start late in New York.) It’s so easy to tell them to try hard, brush their hair, listen to the teacher, follow the rules, don’t wipe your nose on your sleeve. Sometimes we just forget to say something as simple as, “be nice to the other kids.”

I’m glad that writing out this list helped me remember it. It matters. To someone.


11 thoughts on “Smile at the new kid”

  1. I genuinely treasure the reminders for empathy and honesty I get through parenting. Also to be noted, tenacity and the whole water off a duck’s back thing.

    I do remind them of these things, but I am often guilty of not following them, particularly with regard to how I treat myself.

    Thanks for a post we should all really let sink in for a whiel

    1. Thank you Amanda. I think I’m always thinking about defense (“beware of bullies”) and not a positive offense. For lack of a better word.

  2. I like #6–We could use more of that on the internet.

    I’m sorry Thalia had trouble with a mean girl. I wish there were easier ways to discuss such things with other parents. My daughter was at one point being unfairly cast as a mean girl through a series of misunderstandings, and we talked it out with the other mom and girl and everyone came out friends again. It was tempting to stay out of it, and let whatever was happening with the girls run its own course, but I saw a chance to teach something about how to mend friendships and in this case is worked and I’m glad. (Not that this girl wasn’t being deliberately mean in Thalia’s class, but if I were the parent of the bully I would want to know.)

    I hope your girls have the best school year ever! My kids are embarking on sixth, fourth, and first grade and think it’s going to be great.

  3. Amen to #9! My daughter has had to start a new school for the last 2 years — in 9th and 10th grade, can you imagine?!? She is a great girl (of course!) but pretty reserved, and I believe there is a special place in Heaven for those kids in both schools who have befriended her. But not for that 11th-grade boy who asked for her phone number last week! 🙂

  4. I love this. I am a teacher, writer, and mom and think these rules should be posted in all classrooms. Of course I love #9, but #7 struck me as significant. Many modern parents swoop in and try to save the day instead of allowing children to learn from their mistakes. It’s hard to watch one’s child mess up and receive a consequence, but isn’t that how character develops?

    1. What a huge compliment from a teacher Susanna, thank you!

      I agree, mistakes are important. We always talk about how if you’re not making mistakes you’re not learning. There’s a kind of meh Pixar movie called Meet the Robinsons, where the family of inventors celebrate every mistake. We always refer to that when my kids get frustrated over a perceived failure.

  5. I often think about the first day of school, ninth grade, spotting the new kid across the auditorium, standing alone, who was 7 ft. tall. Yes. SEVEN feet tall. To say he was awkward is an understatement. Aren’t we all awkward in 9th grade? Then add an additional 18 inches of awkward and man. Ouch.

    I remember something tripping in my brain at that moment that said
    “Go say hi to that guy.” So I did.

    Thanks for reminding me. And reminding me to keep teaching my kids to put themselves out there as ambassadors of kindness. It matters.

  6. I first asked the kids to be the kindest kid, but quickly realized they had no idea how to put it into practice. So we talked about practicle kindness. Be kind to your teacher by trying to learn what she is teaching, by listening well, by following the rules when the class is being wild. Be kind to your friends by not allowing gossip to permeate your talk. Be kind to the trouble makers by paying positive attention to them and ignoring their naughty behavior. They never saw goodness as kindness before and I find them happier and more helpful since these conversations have come up.

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