We moved this past summer, and while our new house is only one mile from our old house, that one seemingly insignificant mile was all it took to cause a major shift in my daughter’s world. Our new house was in a different school zone, which meant she would have to enter fourth grade as the new kid.
At her previous school her classmates not only knew her interests and quirks, they also celebrated them. If they were ever curious about the difference between a cheetah and a leopard they knew to ask the class-appointed animal expert, Avery. They knew when they saw her on the playground with her nose to the ground or running on all fours that she was pretending to be one of her favorite animals, a wolf. Many of them joined in and their favorite playground game was born: wolf hunter.
When we navigated the halls in search of her new classroom during open house, kids all around us giggled and embraced old friends and one question stuck in my mind: Would the kids in her new school make the same effort to get to know her?
Avery has always been slow to warm up. She is hesitant to engage others until she feels comfortable in her environment. She is friendly to everyone but she does not seek out relationships. In the past she has always been a magnet for the bubbly extroverts who have initiated friendships with her. But this was fourth grade; it’s a game changer. Fourth graders begin to show interest in conformity, labeling and their friendship preferences become more pronounced.
For a quiet kid like Avery, finding her place at this new school and in such a socially driven grade has been challenging.
About a month into school she told me she felt lonely and invisible. That kicked my mama bear instincts into full gear. I reached out to the teacher and school counselor. I facilitated friendships between Avery and her classmates. I volunteer in her class when I can.
Now that school is past the 100th day mark I’m relieved to say my kind and sensitive child is doing much better. Her school environment isn’t ideal – there’s definitely more to do for her teacher and for me – but it’s getting better and I am so proud of my timid, compassionate, brave daughter for how far she’s come.