You’re Welcome!

Dr. Matthew Arau • August 2023Leadership Tips • August 20, 2023

School is starting and the new students, filled with excitement and nervousness, are walking into our music or theater classes for the first time. They are wondering, “is this class going to be fun, is the teacher going to be nice, what are the other students like, and will I feel welcome?” We, the educators, on the other hand, may be focused on setting expectations for the students, laying out the curriculum for the semester, and getting started on preparations for the first concert or performance. 

While expectations, curriculum, and getting to work are integral to the success of our students, it is important to make sure that we make belonging, inclusion, and community a centerpiece of the learning experience from the very first day. Yes, the teacher’s attitude and approach do make a significant impact on the group dynamic, but student leaders can also play an important role in making sure that all the students in the class or ensemble feel welcome.

Here are five leadership tips for your student leaders to create a space that is inviting, accepting, and welcoming for all students.

Learn the new students’ names quickly and address students by name. Remember, everyone’s favorite topic is themselves and we appreciate being addressed by our name.

Ask new students what they like to do when they are not in music or theater class. Be interested in learning more about what the new students are interested in. If you don’t know much or anything about what they are interested in, that’s okay. Simply say, “I don’t know anything about that, but I would love to learn about it.” 

Mentor, encourage, and support students so they feel like a valued contributor to the learning community. Everyone wants to feel they are valued, they matter, and they make a difference.

If a new student is struggling to learn a concept, let them know you have also struggled, and it is okay. Working through challenges and twists in the road is part of the process toward getting better. It is okay to let your guard down and be vulnerable; this will help to open channels of communication and to build trust.

Be on the lookout to say something positive to the new student, even if it is, “nice shirt,” or “I like your glasses.” When we are noticed and appreciated, we feel welcomed.

The overarching message that we want our students to feel at the beginning of the year and always is “You’re welcome, here.”

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