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Just as you’ve embraced the laziness of summer, August rolls around and school maddness begins. Not to worry, teachers have your back. Read on as they share their best tips on having a successful school start.
Pay a Visit
Attending a new school can be an intimidating experience. Cindy Tesreau, principal of Bailey Station Elementary, recommends parents and children tour school grounds before the first day if possible. “It is helpful to know where you are going,” she says. “Let your child ask questions about the school and meet teachers.”
Staying connected with your child’s academic growth is now easier than ever with online grading systems. “Gone are the days of weekly folders, especially in the upper grades,” says Kolleena Perry, sixth grade special education teacher at Bon Lin Middle School. “Parents need to get access to grades early on. Parents can set up notifications each time grades are entered online, and parents should check classroom websites weekly.” Checking grades early can help avoid gaps in learning and keep students from falling too far behind. (Just remember that online grading generally isn’t 100 percent up-to-date.)
Level the Field
Give your child a head start by practicing grade-level skills before the first day of school. Early exposure to basic skills can reap rewards later on, especially in the primary grades. Kim Tunnell, kindergarten teacher at Bailey Station Elementary, recommends parents work on the following skills for entering kindergartners: Printing names with correct capitalization, upper and lowercase letters, numbers 0-10, matching numbers to groups of objects, and counting to 25 and beyond. She adds, “Parents should read everyday with their child!”
Form Healthy Habits
Many parents flounder when trying to find healthy and delicious ideas for school lunches and after school snacks. Include your child in meal planning the weeks leading up to the start of school. Many websites offer quick ideas for nutritious meals that older children can pack themselves. Taking ownership in preparing school lunches will motivate children to make healthier choices in the cafeteria and at home.
In addition to eating healthy, parents should encourage their children to stay active. “Don’t think your child needs to be in an organized sport to stay active,” explains Cheryl White, Physical Education teacher at Bailey Station Elementary. “Team sports aren’t for everyone.” White recommends families take advantage of the multiple greenways, parks, swimming pools, and splash parks around the city. Old-fashioned games such as jump rope, hopscotch, and hide-and-seek can be fun for everyone. Based on her experience, “Parents who are active with their children have the added benefit of social interaction. This time and trust can go a long way when problems arise during the school year.”
Make a Plan
How will your child arrive and depart from school each day? Preparing transportation plans early will reduce anxiety for children and parents. If your child will walk or bike home, practice the route ahead of time. Is there a safe house along the way that your child can stop at and ask for help if needed? If your child is a bus rider, make sure he knows the time and location of his stop. Make certain car riders know the adult in charge of picking them up and the car rider procedures for your school. As always, have an emergency back-up plan.
Mornings can be hectic and set children up for a rocky start to their day. To avoid arguments, practice routines before the first day of school to help solve logistical problems before they arise. Don’t assume morning routines are just for young children. Teens often need help with scheduling and time management. Getting to bed a little earlier will not only pay off for students, but for you, too.
Establish a Dialogue
Parents often want to conference with new teachers before the teacher really knows their child. Parents should understand that classroom rosters and teachers often change the first weeks of school based on enrollment. Kolleena Perry, sixth grade special education teacher at Bon Lin Middle, recommends touching base with new teachers briefly the first days of school, then wait to set up a conπference if there’s no pressing need. “The first week of school is always very busy, but by the second and third week of school, schedules are settled and teachers have learned who your child is. They can then have a meaningful conversation with you about your child.” Establish a dialogue with your child’s teacher early by introducing yourself, writing a brief note, or sending an email.
Students of all ages benefit from setting goals. Help your child set specific, attainable, and positive goals for this school year. Goals should be simple and reflect areas your child wants to grow in: Get up on time, turn in homework, read 20 minutes everyday, or take an honors class. “Be positive and remember that children of all ages pick up on your fears,” advises Tesreau. “It will surprise parents at how quickly children can acclimate to school.”