Getting ready for a return to school

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This article was first published in August 2011. Mrs. Dalby retired from  Palliser in June 2013, but her advice for getting children back in school mode is still well worth repeating. Students return to school across Palliser on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013.

Preparing for a return to school involves much more than buying a new backpack and filling it with whatever’s on the class supply list.

With a little planning and preparation, parents can help ease the transition back to school, even for anxious first-timers, says a Palliser Regional Schools’ administrator.

Donna Dalby, a director of learning with Palliser whose areas of responsibility include curriculum and professional development, says a good time to start the transition is a week before the first day. For younger students this involves getting to bed at an earlier and regular time. Use this week before school to practice a morning routine that ensures they’ll be ready for school. A good night’s sleep followed by a nutritious breakfast help set the stage for a day of learning.

Dalby, a 25-year Palliser veteran teacher, school- and central office-administrator, offers these tips:

  • For students new to the school, an advance tour of the facility may help ease anxiety. Teachers return to school a few days before students so that may be an opportunity to arrange a visit.
  • Practice the walk to school and review basic road safety with elementary students in the days before school starts.
  • Older students may want to carry a discrete map of campus and a detailed schedule so they can be in the right place at the right time.
  • A detailed assignment calendar displaying key due dates, exams and other projects and posted on the fridge can also help maintain a balance between school, home and other commitments.
  • When selecting high school courses, choose wisely the first time. That generally means choosing a stream that keeps the widest range of post-secondary options open. “By Grade 11, a student might discover a real passion for engineering or architecture and they may discover the Math 20-3 class they’re in isn’t going to be enough for their post-secondary needs,” Dalby says. “In a small school especially it can be very difficult to catch up the prerequisite courses they needed from Grade 10, so choose courses that keep post-secondary doors open to you.”
  • Set aside a homework area and make homework time a part of the evening routine. It may help if Mom and Dad also use this time for routine household chores, like paying bills or balancing the cheque book.
  • It’s never too early to prepare for school. For parents of preschoolers, make reading a priority. Read together daily and keep it fun.
  • Parents can support their child’s education by being involved at school, regardless of grade level. High schools need parent involvement, too.

“Parents and other role models around our students can do a real service to kids just by talking about how important school is,” Dalby says. “A consistent message about the value of education and how the skills they learn in school relate to ‘real life’ really make a difference. When we have a positive attitude toward school, it rubs off on our kids.”

For more back-to-school resources, visit the Alberta Education website.