Positive attitude key to strong start of new school year

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Laurie Wilson, centre, talks with R.I. Baker Middle School Principal Jason Prebushewski and Vice-Principal Lindsey Hagen.

The approach of a new school year brings with it plenty of excitement, whether it’s reuniting with friends after a summer apart or the prospect of absorbing a wealth of new knowledge. For some students - and perhaps a few parents ­­­­– it can also be cause for some anxious moments.

While there are a number of things parents can do to help make their child’s transition to a new school year as enjoyable as possible, Laurie Wilson says the biggest key may be in them having a positive attitude about the experience themselves.

“Some children might be nervous, some may not be excited, some may be over-the-top excited,” says Wilson, a Director of Learning with Palliser Regional Schools. “But if the parents show a positive attitude towards that and are showing a little excitement about it, their children will generally pick up on that.”

Students return to class in Palliser Regional Schools on Tuesday, Sept. 1.

Those parents with access to a library might consider taking out a book about the first day of school and reading it together with their child in advance of the ‘big day.’ It can also be helpful for parents to share some positive ‘first day’ stories of their own.

Hopefully parents have encouraged their children to keep up with their reading over the summer. Wilson worked with a reading program this past summer and found all of the students’ reading skills had suffered after just a month away from the classroom. The good news? Within three weeks of working with them all had either caught up to or surpassed their previous reading levels.

It’s also important for parents to remind children ­- especially the younger ones - of the school day routine and whether they will be riding a bus to and from school or whether they are being dropped off and picked up by mom or dad and if so, at what time.

There are also things parents can do to get the school year off on the right foot and make it a rewarding one for all involved, she says.

Keep lines of communication open

Meet the teacher nights or back-to-school barbecues are great opportunities for parents to create a relationship with the school principal and their child’s teacher and find out the best way to contact them with any questions or concerns. Keeping that line of communication open throughout the year is important and Wilson points out a parent should never feel uncomfortable about asking questions of school staff or administrators.

Parents are encouraged to be as engaged with their child’s education as much as their time allows. Studies have shown that children whose parents show an interest in, and demonstrate a value for their education tend to fare better academically.

Attending parent-teacher interviews is one means to achieve that, but it can be something as simple as asking their child about school when they come home. As many a parent can attest, asking what they learned in school today often results in a shrug of the child’s shoulders and an ‘I dunno’ reply.

Instead, Wilson suggests parents ask specific questions, like: ‘did you ask any questions in science today’ or ‘what did you do in the gym in phys-ed today?’ If they start out asking about a subject their child enjoys, parents are more likely to get more than a one-word answer.

“The more that parents can get kids to reiterate what happened in school the more they are going to retain,” she adds.

Other tips include:

  • get children back into a regular, school-night bedtime routine a week before the first day if possible. Leaving it until the night before doesn’t help much
  • being involved is good but it’s best to check with the school on what level is acceptable before it becomes disruptive
  • allowing children to have input into what they’ll wear to school that first day or what lunch they’ll pack can make them feel more in control of the situation

Check out these online resources for more helpful, back-to-school information: