Though the summer heat is still in full force, a new school year is only days away. DeKalb County Schools begin on August 8 and Decatur City Schools commenced even earlier on August 2. A new school year can evoke feelings of excitement and fresh beginnings. It can also rekindle anxiety and even dread. Here are a few strategies to help ease families into a new school year and ensure a strong student-parent-teacher relationship.
Building excitement about school can help combat back to school anxiety, and children often take cues from their parents. Ask your kids about their favorite parts of previous school years. Find out what they are looking forward to. Who are they excited about seeing again? Emphasize these things in future school-related discussion. If your child is anxious or nervous about a certain part of school, develop a plan to practice the skills they will need. Whether it’s carrying a tray in the cafeteria or taking the SAT, identifying the fear and taking action to alleviate it helps ease the concern.
Observing special traditions to mark the beginning of the school year can also help create enthusiasm. Have a special “Night Before School Starts” dinner featuring one or two favorite foods from each child. Go shopping together for special snacks for their lunchboxes. Make a time capsule detailing favorite hobbies, current interests and hopes for the coming months to be opened at the end of the school year.
Local teachers, ready to help everyone experience the best possible year, also offered tips to get the 2011-2012 school year off to a great start. Lynn Holden of the 4/5 Academy at Fifth Avenue in Decatur stressed the importance of routine. “I hope that parents take some time to get back into routines like getting to bed earlier and getting up earlier,” she said. Holden also reminded us that it takes time to get to know each student individually. “Parents always want to sit down with a new teacher right away, but it is more useful to us if they let us get to know their child before scheduling a conference. Of course, things like allergies or recent big life changing events, we need to know right away.”
Cheryl DeBrosse, a Speech and Language Pathologist serving Brockett Elementary in Tucker, stressed the importance of communication between teachers, parents and students. She encourages parents to attend Open House to meet their child’s teachers and get a feel for their teaching style. Effective communication is not one-sided, so DeBrosse recommends that teachers “connect with each parent” and “communicate goals and expectations.”
Brockett Parent Teacher Association (PTA) President Paula Garrett echoes DeBrosse’s emphasis on communication. “Communicate with your kids and with the teachers about what the expectations are for the school year and be available and active in your kids' school experience,” she said. “Parental involvement is what can make the year a more successful one.”
“Homework help [is important] from kindergarten through high school,” said Marie Johnson, science teacher at Chamblee Charter High School. She also emphasized the importance of parents reviewing homework and staying aware of their child’s curriculum. “If your child is in high school make sure they know how to organize their time to finish homework and projects in a timely manner.”
Whether you have a kindergartener or a rising senior, getting them off on the right foot each year is important. Focus on the positives and make a plan to tackle the challenges together. Remember that the student-parent-teacher relationship is one of teamwork and communication. See the new school year for what it is – a fresh chance to grow as a student, teacher or a parent.