Preparing For A New School Year

August 16, 2012 |

This is a Q&A with Elisa Farris, Principal of Morton Ranch Elementary in Katy, Texas. She’s also an alumni of the RYHT Harvard Leadership Program.

What is the most important thing for parents to remember when preparing their children to head back to school?

The most important thing for parents to remember is to BE POSITIVE with their children about the coming year. Parents must listen to their children. Do they seem anxious? Are they worried about friendships, academics, a new teacher? If a parent sees that his child is anxious, talk with him/her about their feelings, and truly honor the way he/she is feeling.

What do you think are the most common fears among parents and students as they start a new school year?

As a parent, I know that I always wanted to know that my son’s new teacher valued/respected him as a person, understood his needs, and maintained a hopeful attitude toward his ability to succeed. Parents are most concerned that their child’s new teacher will “love” and support him or her. This is the first step in building the strong home-school bond that will insure academic achievement and instill a sense of joy for learning.

A child wants to know who her new teacher will be…is he/she nice? Will he/she like me? Will my friends be in my room? Children want to feel a sense of belonging, first and foremost. Every other success will flow from that sense of community, respect and trust established in the first days of school.

How can parents get their children prepared mentally and emotionally to start a new school year?

  • Be positive with your children as you speak about the new school year!
  • Be encouraging in specific ways. For example, you might say, “You’re going to do well in math this year! I know you’re ready because you have really worked on mastering your facts this summer!”
  • Or…“You’ve read so many great books this summer! I’m sure you’ll have a lot to share in class as you talk about your reading.”
  • Finally…“I know that Science has been a challenge for you in the past, but I will be here to help you, and I’m sure your teacher will do everything to make Science exciting and understandable for you!”
  • Asking your child about his day shows that you value his education.
  • Purchase all necessary school supplies in advance.
  • Set a regular bedtime and wake-up routine before school starts. Adequate sleep is important for your child’s daily progress.
  • Set goals and celebrate progress throughout the year!
  • Be sure to attend any “Back-to-School” or “Meet-the-Teacher” events with your child before school starts. (Check your campus or school district’s website for accurate information.)
  • READ TO YOUR CHILD EVERY DAY!
  • Be sure your child knows how they will be getting home from school each day…no surprises! Keeping a consistent schedule at the beginning of the year is very important, and will greatly reduce your child’s stress.
  • Talk over dinner! Don’t just ask, “How was school today?” or “What did you do in school today?” We KNOW the answers to both questions! A much better question to ask your child is, “What QUESTIONS did you ask in school today?”, “Tell me about your class/groups discussions during reading today…” or, “How did you use technology in your learning today?”
  • Finally, let your child know that you and the teacher are on the “same team”. The school-home partnership can be one of the most powerful relationships in your child’s life! Children thrive when know that their parents and teachers are working together to support them.

Do you know of any helpful tip(s) or checklists to get parents and students organized as they prepare for school?

LINKS:

http://livestrong.com
http://Examiner.com/article/10-tips-for-a-successful-new-school-year
http://life.familyeducation.com/back-to-school-anxiety/63691.html
http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/

BOOKS:

Parenting with Love & Logic, Jim Fay

The Leader in Me: How School & Parents Around the World are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time, Stephen R. Covey

As a principal, what are your greatest hopes for a new school year?

My greatest hopes are 1) that we truly create a strong, joyful learning community where each child, teacher and parent is supported and valued. “It takes a village” is perhaps an overused statement, but it has never been truer, and 2) that everything we do in our school is purposeful and authentic in preparing our children for being empathic, creative problem-solvers, strategic thinkers and collaborative knowledge workers who are ready to contribute to a global society. Test scores are not the way we define ourselves as a community of learners…it is by the quality of our “product”…Our children are whole, healthy, happy learners!

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