A new school year with new teachers, classmates, routines, responsibilities and expectations can be stressful.
Joyce Simnett, retired Hyman Fine Elementary School teacher, has this piece of important advice: “Really listen to your child on that fun, scary, confusing first day of school. Listen to what your child has to say AND to what is NOT being said. Being there and HEARING your child is often much better than any advice you can give him or her.”
Maureen Perkoski, fifth-grade teacher at Brennan Middle School, asks that the parents of her students be supportive and attentive of their children’s educational needs.
“Send your child to school each and every day with a smile and a positive attitude. We the teachers will take care of the rest!”
From the first day forward, Schlecht recommends that parents should be aware of any adjustment issues a child may be having. “Behaviors that show the child is having a rough adjustment include anxiety, a new refusal behavior, difficulty separating and having problems getting used to the new routine.
Frequent illnesses or complaints about illnesses, with frequent flyer miles to the nurse’s office, are sure signs that your child is stressed.”
What your child is doing on the first day:
Ellen Rivera, math teacher at Brennan Middle School, is as always excited, looking forward to the first day of school and her new group of students.
On all grade levels, the first day of school brings with it a time-consuming pile of paperwork and materials necessary to distribute. Some will need to be sent home for signatures and some portions to be filled out by the students.
“Although we are very busy with student and teacher paperwork and also the 'how to' routines for the bathroom, cafeteria, library, planner, schedule, homework, bus and dismissal routines, we build in plenty of time during the first couple of days for fun getting to know you activities.
"We don’t want any student to be anxious on the first day or any day!"
The students will need to work in small groups all year long, so these activities are designed to help the students feel confident and comfortable with their new classmates. The math program requires quite a bit of student problem-solving in small groups and game-playing to reinforce concepts. It's important for kids to be able to get along with each other before I can expect them to work successfully together.”
Jan Infante, retired Hyman Fine Elementary School teacher, agrees. “These 'getting to know each other' activities are good for students new to the school system who don’t know anyone, and also for students renewing friendships from the previous year.”
“After the kids get this much-needed back to school socialization out of their system and we, the teachers, get to know our students a little bit, we start our academics slowly, reviewing what they have previously learned,” said Rivera.
"Again, we want a smooth back-to-school transition. We want to build the students’ confidence and not increase anyone’s anxiety level.”
First day of school clothes and supplies
“Don’t go overboard on clothes shopping, especially in middle school,” advises Kathy Schlecht, Attleboro schools’ counselor. “Middle school students are comparative creatures who follow the trends. Get the most desired basics, then go shopping mid-September for a cheaper and more focused shopping.”
At the high school, retired English teacher and English department head Katherine Hebert has similar advice for students: “Don’t buy all of your school supplies before school begins. Teachers have varying requirements to help you stay organized that you won’t find out about until the first few days. For example, some teachers require a spiral bound notebook while others specify a 3-ring binder. Others will ask you to have a few highlighters of different colors on hand.”
At any grade level, Hebert assures students, “If teachers require organizational or supply items you cannot provide for yourself, ask your teacher for help. Teachers do keep extras on hand.”
Stay Organized! Set up routines!
From the first day, parents should become aware of what the student’s new responsibilities are and support them in meeting these new expectations.
Perkoski points out to students on the very first day that school is first; sports and extracurricular activities are second. A student athlete or Girl Scout must figure out how and when to get their homework completed. Students may have to set their alarm earlier in order to get up and get their homework done in the morning. There are no homework excuses.
“On the first day, before being assigned a locker in fifth grade, students must have practiced and are adept with their number combination lock,” said Perkoski.
Hebert urges students to, “Organize and read all of the first-day information, course outlines, course calendars, etc. as you receive them. Teachers will refer to these all semester and you need to also."
Set up a consistent homework routine
In middle school, students receive their math books during the very first days back to school. Perkoski recommends parents set up a consistent routine for students’ daily math homework. “There is math homework every night and the math resource book should travel back and forth with the child every day.”
Although there is a math resource book for parents and students in kindergarten to Grade 6, parents should not jump in and immediately help a struggling student. “Students often need to read and reread the instructions several times before understanding the mathematical language of the problem.”
Parents receive math family newsletters that actually give the answers to the nightly homework. Perkoski urges parents to keep this valuable resource in order to check the students’ answers. If the answers are incorrect, the student should try again.
“Do students try to cheat with the provided answers? Maybe once, but an answer without the work process shown is unacceptable,” said Perkoski.
Parents and students can go to TeacherTube.com for demonstrations on specific concepts like lattice multiplication for example.
Get ready for a warm high school
On the first day at the high school, Hebert advises students to drink a lot of water. “Bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated. It’s very warm in AHS in September.”
In all school buildings, “Ask for help if you get lost. Teachers will be at their doors and in the hallways to help you.”
On the first day of school and through the school year, Infante has seen the faces of many students light up upon reading a note from home tucked in with their lunch. “It can be as simple as 'I love you.' ”
Schlecht advises, “Students, each year is a chance to grow and change, not only in academics, but in courage and kindness. Parents, with your child, think about how to spread some of this around.”
The school secretary is a great resource for parents. Generally, they know everything you need to know!
Every year, parents should remember to attend their school’s fall open house to meet the teachers and for specific curriculum information.