As summer slips by, anxiety tends to sneak up on children and parents as they wonder – and worry – about what lies ahead in the new school year. What’s more, the novelty of a new school year may never fully wear off, says Megan Fagan, a regional director for Summit Academy Schools.
Going to school is like going to a new job, except that new class lessons can make every school day feel like a first, says Fagan, who oversees Summit Academy Community School and Summit Academy Transitional High School, both in Dayton; Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners – Xenia; and Summit Academy Secondary School and Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners, both in Middletown. Fagan describes why the learning curve for school students is never ending.
“In school, kids are learning something new every day. You can’t just come in and master everything,” Fagan says. “It can be really hard on kids.”
Reading, writing and arithmetic aside, new faces, new names, new lockers and hallways can add to back-to-school stress. Take heed, advises Fagan, who says that a little preparation can go a long way in getting the school year off to a smooth start. She offers six tips for success at the start, through the end, of the school year.
Set out clothes and backpacks and pack lunch the night before school. Fagan says that next-day preparation should be part of students’ nightly routines, along with setting a regular bedtime. “There’s much less stress in the morning having of those things done,” says Fagan. “If a kid comes to school without a book or lunch – or maybe worse, tired – it can ruin the day.”
Label sweatshirts, bookbags, lunch boxes and other items. While the school Lost and Found is a great place to find missing items, matching duplicate ones with their owners is another story. Fagan recalls the time she found five identical school sweatshirts, all the same size, all in the school Lost and Found. “Identifying the one that belonged to Johnny wasn’t so easy,” she says, adding that a label would have solved the dilemma.
Ask questions that help tell a story. What made you laugh today? Who did you sit with at lunchtime? “Ask your child probing questions to help understand what’s going on in the classroom and school,” Fagan advises parents. “You won’t get the whole picture overnight, but you will have insight to know if there are any issues.” From there, parents and guardians can take the steps necessary to resolve concerns.
Memorize important names and numbers. Remembering room numbers, locker combinations, class schedules and teachers’ names before classes start can help take the fear factor out of students’ return to school. “Children’ don’t know a lot about the new school year and it can be scary. Simply knowing a teacher’s name can help a student make a concrete connection with that teacher,” says Fagan, explaining that familiarity – with names, numbers and the like – can help smooth students’ transition from summer to school year.
Read school notices. “Pay attention to papers that come home and check what schools put out on the website and Facebook,” says Fagan. Staying on top of open house dates, class activities and other important events can make all the difference between a stressful and smooth-going school year.
Communicate with teachers. Parents and guardians, reach out to your child’s teacher with questions and concerns. And, don’t hesitate, advises Fagan. “We want you to communicate,” Fagan urges parents. “You will never communicate too much.”