Back To School Advice From Dance Mom and Educator Holly
Backpacks, pencils, and notebooks- oh my!! It’s that time of year again. Back to school!! Gone are the lazy hazy days of summer and here is the return of hectic schedules and early morning rises.
As long as I can remember I always enjoyed this time of year. As a child I eagerly anticipated the first day of school and packing up my school supplies as if I was headed on an adventure or expedition. The joy of embarking on a new educational journey each year was exhilarating as a student and still remains just as exciting as an adult. It is hard to believe that I have been going to school for over 35 years. The joy of learning has made me an eternal student and it is my hope that my joy excites those around me as well.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on the lessons I have learned over the years:
Consistent and predictable. Being consistent and predictable is essential for student success. Children need clear parameters and parents need to ensure that these guidelines are enforced so students feel supported and safe. It is normal for children to test limits. Testing limits is developmentally appropriate but it is critical for parents to establish when a line has been crossed. Children are looking to adults to maintain that the boundary remains intact. Establishing boundaries creates a safety net for children to explore and make mistakes. Even if a child may initially balk at a parent enforcing the expectations do not despair. That is part of the cycle but do not cave in - consistency is important. Always listen and communicate effectively.
Study to learn and learn to study. There is a subtle but critical difference in this statement. Both are important to a student’s development but both need to occur so a student can continue to evolve and grow. It is not surprising that students need to study so they can learn. In order to learn a student must study. Yet, it is the piece about learning how to study that is often overlooked. Studying is a skill. Skills need to be developed. Some skills may even need to be learned. In order for students to learn effectively they must develop the appropriate study skills. I discuss study skills a little bit towards the end of this blog.
Habits of mind. Encouraging students to engage in the world in a series of thinking-routines and exercises allows them to develop a skill set where they can think flexibly and creatively. Regurgitating knowledge does not equate to being an educated individual. However, the ability to think flexibly and apply knowledge in meaningful and relevant ways demonstrates your understanding of learned content in its relation to the world. The importance of gaining knowledge is not simply to possess it but to use it to solve problems in a real world context.
Product vs. Process. Although grades are important it is important that children recognize that a grade is not necessarily the most important part of the educational experience. Grades matter and they do count- absolutely yes. However, it is the journey where one gains some of the most invaluable experience. Sometimes students are so consumed with getting the right answer that they lose focus on what they learned from the errors that they made. The process often provides the greatest learning opportunities and it is important that children do not discount that.
Study skills. Learning a wealth of knowledge is terrific, but equally important are the invaluable study skills that students should learn as part of the educational experience. Children will not have parents to micromanage their studies as they get older so it is important for children to hone developmentally appropriate study skills. Work with your child in developing good time management techniques they learn as they balance extracurricular activities, homework and long term projects. Daily studying and cramming for a test are two different types of studying. One will deliver a more long- term benefit while the other meets an immediate need.
A substantial part of study skills should focus on organization. Some of my brightest students were hindered by poor organizational skills. I always encouraged parents to develop an organizational system that you can manage. Do not invest in anything that is too elaborate or time consuming. It has to be functional and approachable. If the system is too involved you probably will not use it because it is too much work. Remember the system is supposed to help you, not hurt you.
Note-taking and listening skills are other elements of study skills that can be overlooked but are equally vital. These are timeless skills that can be transferred to any setting, college or workplace. Study skills are in many ways the life long skills that make us successful adults.