Making Back-to-School a Success
by Stacy Cline
In my blog in July, I noted that old refrain “…no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers…”
Guess what? We’re baaaa-aack!
I have heard the following phrase often in the last few weeks: “School is a dirty word in our house.” No one wants to let go of summer. But school is around the corner and it’s time to think about it (even if you don’t want to say it, being a dirty word, apparently) so that we’re well prepared to return to you-know-what.
Summer is often a time of lazy days, with a side of ice cream. School is a time of routine. It’s critical to return to those old routines, so that the first week of September isn’t such a shock.
Bedtime routines should be back in place before school begins, if you’ve been lax over the summer. Morning routines should also be revisited. If they have been sauntering into the kitchen to eat breakfast in PJs, then get back into the old habit of getting dressed first, if that had been procedure. Write a checklist for the first week to remind you of all that needs to be done to get out the door. I will, because I know I might not remember to pack their water bottles or something like that. Two summer months is sufficient time to forget.
If nightly read alouds or your child’s independent reading time fell by the wayside over the summer because of late bedtimes, restore that good habit now. A new book of their choice is a great back-to-school gift. A reluctant reader might like a graphic novel or even a comic book.
Ensure there is ample time to eat a nutritious breakfast every morning. This is crucial, and one of my greatest worries as a teacher. Children who arrive at school nourished are energized and perform far better. Aside from nutritional concerns, hungry kids often have difficulty focussing.
Practice new skills. Maybe they are learning to tie shoelaces, dress themselves or pack their own lunch (preferably the night before). Homework policies should be planned and discussed. Where will homework be completed, such that it is a quiet space with little distraction? What time of day? Before or after TV? Prepare for effective and consistent study habits now, and this will help avoid conflicts later.
Organize their supplies. Assuming that the zipper on the pencil case isn’t busted, there aren’t holes in the knapsack and the lunch bag doesn’t smell like feet then all can be reused. Purchase only what needs to be replaced, and teach responsible spending and good environmental stewardship to your children. That doesn’t mean a fresh box of crayons or a fancy pencil isn’t in order. A few little back-to-school treats might brighten your child’s day.
If your kids, like mine, have mostly been wearing sport sandals all summer, then try their running shoes to ensure they still fit. They’ll need them for phys ed.
Some children experience anxiety prior to the start of school. They might even have trouble sleeping. As a teacher, this is something that I have struggled with. I’m excited, nervous, tense, a bit scared, you name it. Perhaps your child is too. New teacher, new grade, new challenge, new faces…
Remain upbeat, optimistic and calm. Listen and demonstrate empathy by validating their concerns. I can’t tell my daughter, “It’s nothing!” when I can barely eat. Remind them of old friends they will see, and the fun things they will learn and do. Talk about favourite subjects, even recess! Set up play dates with friends who they haven’t seen all summer to reconnect and to give them some comfort, and something to which they can look forward.
Last but not least, your pen-and-paper, traditional school teacher here strongly recommends you use a wall calendar to help your family organize your weeks. I know, you have everything stored on your tablet/desktop/smartphone but a wall calendar is a visual aid that your family can use for reference at any time. Anyone can add notes to it so everyone is literally on the same page. It will never fail you. It will also engage your kids to take responsibility and participate in daily planning. And if GYM TODAY is written down for your child to see, it will take one thing off your plate to remember.
Stacey Cline is an elementary school teacher and educational consultant. She is amazed by what she learns from her students every day. Stacey is passionate about reading, and has amassed a fantastic collection of children’s literature that her family enjoys daily. She lives in Toronto with her husband, two daughters and two cats. As a result, she loves strong espresso and good wine.
Stacey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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