Back to School Ready! Back to School Set! Back to School Go!
As a mother and a teacher, Back to School is a bitter sweet time of year for me. On the one hand, I love wandering through the Back to School sections of Target and Wal-Mart looking for supplies for my sons and my own classroom. On the other hand, this time of year brings the realization that our fun and casual summer routine is coming to a close and soon I will be back to work and the boys will be back to class.
Over the years I have developed, adopted, and rejected suggestions on how to make this transition better for my sons, students, and me. I think it is important to note that families and students do not all share the same relationship with school. For some this is a time welcomed with excitement, while others dread going back to school and their final weeks of summer are consumed with anxiety. Therefore, I encourage you to consider what you believe relates to your situation and student and ignore what does not seem relevant.
My first suggestion is to let your student know when the first day of school actually is. Believe it or not, I have had students miss the first day of school because they got the date wrong. It does happen. On the door to our basement, which is located at the end of our kitchen, hangs a Washington Capitals calendar. This calendar does not compliment the decor of my kitchen, but it is our favorite NHL team, and it serves as communication hub for our family. The first day of school is written in Sharpee and throughout the summer I review this date and timeline with Henry and Wally. We count down in terms of months, weeks, and then “sleeps” as the first day of school approaches. This helps eliminate the element of surprise, which with my kids does not typically go well unless it involves Legos, candy, money, or an Amazon product.
Next, let’s make sure these kiddos are prepared. If you can, get to the stores when the Back to School supplies first come out and tackle those supply lists. Kids love having new gear for a new school year. As a teacher, I enjoy those first few weeks where the backpacks are organized, the sneakers are clean, and everyone has a writing utensil. Now I know those supplies are not cheap, so if you can’t afford everything on the list, just buy what you can. Your child’s teacher will, or should understand. As teachers we often buy extra supplies for students who might need some assistance. Remember, we are there to help. Also, there are many community programs that assist with school supplies, but you may have to seek them out. Contact your local news affiliates, churches, and even schools to see what may be available. If you are able, I would encourage you to donate to such supply drives, no matter how big or small the donation, it all helps. If your community does not have such a drive, contact your school’s guidance department and see if you can anonymously sponsor a student. You can also fill a new backpack with general supplies and drop it off at any school and they will find a student that can use it.
Now that your child has everything to school, we just have to get them there on time. So here is where the routine comes in. Believe it or not, kids crave routine. They feel like they have control when they are familiar with the plan or expectations. Summer is great for breaking and ignoring routines. This might happen out of the necessity of varying schedules or simply because people want a break and flexibility. I get it. However, I strongly encourage you to start training the fam back into a routine at least one week before school starts. Let’s regulate those bed and wake up times. Lay clothes out the night before. Make sure everyone puts their shoes and coats in designated places. Start to incorporate a breakfast that works with school mornings. If you haven’t left the house before noon this summer, do a couple of practice runs where you have to get everyone out before nine am. I know this might sound trying, but trust me it helps.
Lastly, set the context or tone for the first day of school as an appropriate positive. I know that many of you will understandably do the dance of joy as soon as that bus pulls away with your love on it. However, the first day of a new school year is really about your son or daughter and the educational opportunities that await them. Make it about them and their big day, not your new found freedom. I would avoid spending the last few weeks of summer break vocalizing how you are not going to miss driving them everywhere or spending money on daycare and camps. And for those of you who have hit milestones with your kids such as sending them off to Kindergarten, Middle School, or High School try your best not to lose it. I get that you can’t believe this time has actually come and that you are wondering how your love is growing up so fast, but remember your child is most likely dealing with their own emotions as they actually endeavor this experience. It is not your child’s job to console you as you have a meltdown.
If you have a child who dreads or resists school, this time of year is especially tough for you. Try to determine the situation behind your love’s angst. What is causing this anxiety? In some cases it might be as simple as jittery nerves, while other students might need emotional and professional support. Remember your child’s school has resources that may be able to help or people who can direct you to the proper care. Anxiety among American students is on the rise, we see it increase every year. Schools are no longer the care free places they once were. They are potential targets for violence and lock down drills have to be practiced. Standardized testing has increased. Homework loads have sky rocketed. Students face social challenges at school, but also on social media. It is a lot for their young shoulders to carry. So please, do not hesitate to reach out to an educational professional in your district, or your family doctor if you or your student need help.
Finally, as your child does embark on their new school year please remember that most of us in the teaching profession feel privileged to work with your student and look forward to facilitating their learning and development. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself and touch base with your child's teacher through a quick email, phone call, or note. You are your child’s greatest teacher and we should appreciate any insight you can share. Have a great start to the year!