Tips for the New School Year
With 14 years of teaching under her belt, Sally Smith is no stranger to the back-to-school experience. "It's still exciting though, because every year brings a new group of kids and a clean slate to start from." For the last seven years, Sally has taught 6th-grade social studies and Language Arts at the Nashoba Brooks school in Concord, Massachusetts.
One piece of advice she offers families as classes begin is to wait a couple of weeks before pressing the alarm bell about a child's unhappiness at school. "Children need time to get comfortable in their new surroundings, and teachers need time to get to know the child and assess why they're having trouble. It's always wise to give your teacher a heads-up if you sense there's a problem, but understand that it takes a little time before he or she can give you an answer."
Here are a few more tips from Sally for parents preparing to send their kids back to school:
- As school begins, helping kids get organized is probably the most important thing parents can do. Carve out a workspace with them where they will be able to do work at home, uninterrupted in an orderly space. Assemble the supplies they will need and have them arrange everything so it feels like a comfortable place. Encourage them to keep it organized and to go there to do their work. Help them think about how they can organize a homework routine, knowing that there will be other demands, like sports or other afterschool activities that will compete with homework time.
- Here's a tip that works to help kids get out the door in the morning without the usual hassles. It starts before they leave school at the end of the day. They need to have an assignment book and a system they faithfully use to record what's due. They should check it before leaving the building, so they can bring home what's needed. As they complete assignments, they should get in the habit of putting them in a bookbag. When everything's done and the bookbag is full of what is needed for the next day, it should be put in front of the front door. This will minimize the "dog ate my homework" refrains.
- Teachers and parents should be allies -- both want success for the student. If problems occur between a teacher and a student, parents should be sympathetic but neutral listeners until they have heard both sides. Even then, it's most helpful to work together to find solutions. If parents talk disparagingly about a teacher, it gives the student tacit approval to disrespect her and stop participating. Learning is always undermined when a student shuts down and a teacher feels disregarded. Don't let a bad situation linger. Follow through to find a fair and productive solution that works.
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