A positive start – back to school

school cropped

At this time of the year children, parents and teachers in Australia are thinking about the return to school which is approaching with haste. For some those thoughts are of excitement and expectation. For others they are of anxiety and dread.

While children have enjoyed the break from imposed structure and the pressure of school days and homework, many look forward to seeing their friends again and the routine of having something to do after long, lazy summer days. Others may feel anxious about being in a new class with a new teacher and new yet-to-be-made friends. For those starting at a new school, or school for the first time, there may be a confusion of feelings and vacillation between excitement and fear.

Parents, too, have mixed feelings about their children starting or returning to school. They may look forward to a return to routine and a relief from the pressure of providing full-time entertainment or alternative care arrangements. They may also experience feelings of loss when they hand their children over to the care of a stranger for most of the day. However, I think what parents most want for their children when they return to school, or indeed at any time, is for them to be happy.
Teachers experience a similar range and vacillation of feelings from excitement and expectation through to anxiety and dread. Even now many of those teachers are out fossicking through the cheap shops, scouring stationery and educational supply stores, looking for items for use in their classrooms. Others will be at home trawling the internet looking for resources, or making their own resources in preparation for the new school year.
One thing that is important to all is to begin the year positively and happily.

http://openclipart.org/image/800px/svg_to_png/101707/happy_pencil.png

Strategies for parents

Some strategies parents can use to ensure their children begin the school year happily include:

  • Talk to children in positive and supportive ways that will strengthen their optimism about returning to school, allay any fears and settle anxieties.
  • Ensure children are aware of how they will travel to and from school, and of any arrangements that have been made for before or after school care.
  • Familiarize children with the route to and from school by travelling it as they will be expected to, whether by foot, cycle, bus or car. If necessary, point out landmarks along the way.
  • Make sure children know their first and last names, address and parents’ phone number/s.
  • Have children’s equipment ready with books covered and every item identified with the child’s name.
  • If possible, take the child to school on the first day and meet the teacher.

liftarn_Adult_and_child

The positive feelings can be continued throughout the year by:

  • Daily conversations about the school day: learning, events and friends.
  • Volunteering in the class or school, or being involved with after school activities.
  • Maintaining open and positive communication with the class teacher.

Strategies for teachers

Some strategies teachers can utilize to ensure that children (and parents) begin the school year happily include:

  • Create a welcoming classroom with signs, posters, items of interest and inviting reading corners and activity nooks.
  • Greet children and parents with a friendly smile.
  • Engage children in activities that help you get to know them, and them to get to know each other.
  • Display children’s work to give them a sense of ownership and belonging.
  • Explain management and behaviour expectations and include children in composing a classroom management and behaviour plan.
  • Ensure children know the school timetable; when the breaks will occur and any lessons to be taken by specialist or other teachers.
  • Explain playground behaviour expectations, including showing areas where they may / may not play.
  • Take them on a walk around the school to show them the library, office, bathrooms and any other areas they may need to know.
  • Include singing during the day and send them home with a song and a reminder of what has been learned or engaged with during the day. (In a previous post Happy being me I wrote about Anne Infante’s songs of affirmation. Any of these are great ones to sing and help to create a positive environment.)

What other suggestions can you make?
What helped you as a child, parent or teacher prepare for the new school year?
Teachers, check out my new products on TEACHERSpayTEACHERS to help you set up your classroom and greet your new students with a Busy Bee theme. There are many resources to get you started, ready to download and print out.

bee 1

Bee courtesy of Bernadette Drent, used with permission.

Other clipart courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org.

4 thoughts on “A positive start – back to school

  1. Rosie

    A year ahead…full of opportunity to build a creative learning community of children, parents and teachers. I use the plural teachers because so many teachers still see themselves as working by themselves with a group of children, especially beginning teachers.

    A classroom brings together many teachers….PE, Music, DP, (and hopefully the Principal), support teachers and teacher aides…this needs to be a coherent process….bringing all these people together….using all the expertise to build on the creative abilities of all to benefit children. I don’t mean sitting at staff meetings, hearing what is said and taking it back to the classroom.

    I mean…all these people are teachers…you as the classroom teacher lead the team, bring the team together, ensure their presence in your classroom to work for your children.

    Often we feel it is all on our individual shoulder when someone says that a child is not doing as well as he/she should or that our class is not performing…remember you are a professional….a school is a complex environment with many levels….have you ever thought of calling a meeting of the Principal, your supervising DP, the support teacher for children in your class….and asked for a think tank on how your classroom should operate.

    Teachers need to think of themselves as leaders, designing learning for all children.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Rosie,
      Thank you for your very thoughtful and valuable comment. You have given us a lot to think about. I really like your idea of a “think tank on how your classroom should operate”. Often we, as teachers, feel very protective of our classrooms, expecting negative rather than positive inputs. I have always welcomed the positive support that is given by way of encouragement and suggestions of alternative ideas. A little challenge never hurts anyone, unless we let it!
      I love your concluding statement about teachers being “leaders, designing learning for all children”. This is exactly our purpose. You are totally correct!

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  2. Bec

    Wow, are we really back to the school term already? I recall the exciting time of getting all the year’s new books from the Newsagent, the great scent that accompanied them (I can’t remember what it smelled like now, but I remember it was distinct) and the optimism for the new school year. Great ideas, and I hope that for teachers especially who are so over-worked and often under-valued, it’s a happy time of year and not too stressful.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Bec.
      I too remember, though a lot longer ago, getting my books ready for a new school year. The smoothness of the fresh untouched pages in the exercise books was always a pleasure, only to be matched when the pages were filled and dented by the writings filling them. I was never keen on the way they always seemed, no matter how hard I tried to avoid it, to get dog-eared though. The smell of new books also, always was, and still is, a source of pleasure.
      Thanks for sharing!

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