8 Steps to Going Back-to-School on the Right Foot
There's an energy humming in the air and it sounds a lot like a school bus! Around here, it is back-to-school time and all the families who send their children to school have some combination of excitement and anxiety about the approach of the first day of school.
One of my favorite parts about the first day of school is that it is a brand new, clean slate for everyone: the teachers, the parents, and especially the students. Since you never get that second chance to make a first impression, here are a few tips for parents and students to get things started on the right foot with the teacher:
1. A Brand New Year: Address any anxieties or fears your child has. If your child had a difficult relationship with the previous teacher, you need to listen to and acknowledge these worries. In an age appropriate way, brainstorm ways to build a positive relationship this year. Emphasize that all of the grade books are blank and everything is freshly scrubbed. Encourage your child to select fresh supplies, get a new haircut, and otherwise sweep out the old year and be open to the possibilities of the new.
2. Be Prepared: If your teacher has sent out a supply list, make sure you purchase everything well in advance before local stores sell out. As a mom, I know these supply lists can sometimes be confusing--on our list is a glue that does not exist and a pair of ultra-specific scissors. However, your child will feel better knowing he is prepared. Usually, older students do not receive a list. However, it is still a good idea to bring a pencil, a notepad, and a folder the first day. If you are in need of assistance buying school supplies, most schools have a program to help families in need or can make a referral.
3. Practice Makes Perfect: For younger children, new students, or kids with a high level of anxiety, a dress rehearsal is a good idea. "Make sure that your little ones are able to unsnap, unzip, button or unbutton all of the new clothes and coats - and their backpacks as well," says Betsy Weigle, an elementary school teacher and creator of Classroom Teacher Resources. Weigle also recommends, "a school sack lunch day even during the summer" to make certain your children will not "go hungry simply because they weren't able to get into all of their food." Also, "talk through or even practice what to do if anything unusual happens, such as missing a bus."
4. Early to Bed: You may think a good night's sleep and a healthy breakfast have nothing to do with the teacher but, believe me, we can tell if a child is hungry or exhausted. Personally, I could never sleep the night before the first day of school--not when I was a student, not when I was a teacher, and not now that I am a mom. Still, setting a bedtime at least a week before school starts and having regular, healthy meals, will help your child stay healthy, confident, and alert...at least after the first day jitters have passed.
5. Make Contact: Parents should introduce themselves to the teacher, via e-mail, a short phone call, or a quick handshake on a day other than the very hectic first days of school. This is not the time to tell the teacher your child's life story. Simply let the teacher know who you are and how to reach you. This initial contact opens up the communication and makes later discussions much easier. Students should be taught to greet the teacher politely. "If someone entered your home or room, wouldn't you want them to speak to you instead of walking right past you? That begins to build a positive relationship between the teacher and the student," explains Dr. Beverly Wixon, teacher and life coach.
6. Establish a Homework Routine: Right from the start, create a homework routine. Ann K. Dolin, founder and president of Educational Connections Tutoring and Test Prep and author of Homework Made Simple suggests that elementary school children start homework after a short break and teens begin work before dinner. "Although each day might be different due to sports, lessons and other activities, the routine of starting 30 minutes after returning should not change," explains Dolin.
7. Develop a System: Staying organized in the first place is easier than fighting the clutter and chaos later on. Mayonn Paasewe, Education Specialist for Kids ‘R’ Kids International says, "Devise a system for keeping track of homework assignments, papers needing to be signed and returned, and upcoming school events. It can be as simple as having a special folder for important school materials or a calendar with important reminders and due dates."
8. Be Responsive: Families should respond to any teacher communications in a timely way. Not only does this provide the teacher with the information she needs, it also tells her "there is an involved parent in the household," according to Weigle.