Regardless of whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a student, August marks the turn of the tides when school supplies, planners, and new-school-year jitters take center stage. It is an exciting time for some, and a dreadful time for others. Each parent, child and teacher is unique and has his or her own feelings about school starting, and that is perfectly natural and normal. Here are some key tips and tricks to help get the school year off to as positive a start as possible.
If you’re a teacher:
It takes a special person to show up each day in the classroom ready to work, smile, inspire and support the needs of so many children. Here are tips to super-charge the start of your year.
Do something different in your classroom. Change the seating, hang new artwork, move your desk, plan special time each week that the kids won’t be expecting. Keeping things new and fresh helps motivate you and keeps your kids curious to see what you’ll come up with next.
Be honest about your skills. We all have strengths and weaknesses, what are yours? Even a veteran teacher must be on a constant path of self-reflection and personal growth in order to stay strong at the head of the classroom. Seek out continuing education and wisdom from school leadership to help you be the best teacher you can be.
Care for yourself! Teaching is a demanding job on all levels. Not only do you have to meet the needs of your diverse student body each day, but you also must navigate the parents who come along with them. Be sure to take time to do the things you love. Burnout is a high risk factor in teaching and the community at large needs you at your best.
If you’re a parent:
Our kids are not just juggling math, science, and language. Our kids are also learning to navigate the social structure of the playground and classroom, trying to understand the expectations of their teachers, as well as having to meet our demands as parents to do homework and chores, and generally behave well. It is imperative that we remember that our kids are under stress, too! Here are some key tips to help you as you prepare your child for school.
Take the kids with you to shop for school supplies and back-to-school clothes. This will excite them and get them looking forward to the year. Where possible, let them chose their colors and styles!
Talk with your kids openly about the impending school year. Ask them how they feel about it and monitor their feelings and reactions. Kids who struggle academically or socially in school will tend to have an increase in stress as the first day of school draws near. Be sure to offer words of encouragement.
Take note of any troubling behavior. Acting out, shutting down, sleep troubles, or increased anxiety that is above and beyond your child’s “normal” might signal that she or he needs to talk with a professional.
As parents you might be having your own anxiety with school starting. This is perfectly normal and you, too, can speak with a friend or a professional about managing your concerns.
What students need:
If you ask most kids, they’ll tell you they want to eat ice cream all day, stay up as late as they want and not have anyone tell them what to do. However we, as parents and teachers, know that what a student needs and what a student wants are not always the same. Here are the key tips for a smooth transition:
Set clear expectations and boundaries for your student. Let them know exactly what they need to do, both at home and in school, in order to be successful.
Always leave the door open—literally and figuratively. Be physically and emotionally available to help students address academic and/or social issues. The teacher might be the only person in the child’s life who he can speak to about a problem at home, and the parent might be the only person the child can share with in terms of problems with kids or the teacher at school. Students who know they have a strong support system tend to have a more positive school experience.
Don’t freak out. Chances are good that at some point issues will come up either at home or at school. If possible, parents and teachers should work together to address any issues and help to create a productive resolution to the problem at hand.
Dr. Seuss says it best, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” With the right mind set and tool kit the Back-to-School Boogie will be a fun and exciting experience. Good luck and have a great year!
Mia Adler Ozair is a clinically licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in Los Angeles. She also has more than 20 years of expertise in the worlds of education, nonprofit organizations and public speaking. For more information please visit, www.miaadlerozair.com