By Janine Jones, Teacher at Glenwood Boys High
Every parent wants the school year to be successful for their children. Here are a few simple ‘tricks of the trade’ from a parent of three school-going children and an educator who has been ‘on the other side’. With a little preparation and thought, every family can start the school year off on a positive note.
1. Calendar the entire year
One of the most unsettling things is when a school project or holiday creeps up on you and you didn’t know about it. You can avoid this stress if you put the entire year on everyone’s calendar at the beginning of the first school term.
Put everything you can on the calendar. Every holiday and excursion, back-to-school night and gala day – anything that your school publishes on their annual school calendar that affects your kids and family.
With digital calendars it’s easier than ever. Invite your partner to these so it’s on both of your calendars. If you have an au pair or carer, you can invite them too. And if you still use pen and paper, get all the dates on the master calendar that the whole family can see.
Helping your kids get organised helps you too. For parents it’s stressful when we’re rushing to get out the door in the morning and one of the kids suddenly remembers they need us to read and sign something from the school. Or, “by the way mom or dad, I need R100 for the excursion to the Science Centre today”.
Surprises like these are not the fun kind. To eliminate them, we suggest creating a system.
Each child has two slots in a desktop or mail organiser. Each slot is labelled for each child as ‘important’ and ‘school work’. Important means the parents need to address immediately. And schoolwork is for homework books that need to be signed. This way we know right away if there’s a permission slip or an important note from school we need to read.
For this system to work, the kids need to be taught to use it. Through this simple intervention, parents say they have almost completely eliminated the morning stress of having to sign a form they didn’t know about and has made their jobs as parents so much easier.
3. Creating a learning space for the kids
Giving your kids a set time to focus on academics is important, but having a space in which to do it is important, too.
Decide now where homework will be done in the coming year and start getting that space ready. Whether it is decluttering a desk in a teen’s bedroom or setting up a dedicated space in a common room, having somewhere for kids to go that is solely for their academic studies can greatly improve their focus. Plus, creating that space can be a fun activity; working together to organise and decorate the space may give them a motivated start to the year.
In addition to creating organised spaces for homework and academics, it’s important for kids (and parents, too) to start the year off with a clean slate – in other words, an organised house.
For kids, this means getting their rooms in order and having set places for school stationery, backpacks, sports equipment, etc. For you, it’s making sure you’re ready for the influx of forms, notices and art projects that are about to start flooding in daily – not to mention the chaos of school mornings.
Whether you need to purchase labelled containers for easy school lunches and snacks, or a supply of cardboard, glue and marker pens for projects, the more you do now the better. As much as you might dread it, when the school year starts, you’ll all be grateful for it. Check out one-stop stationery stores like PNA for these supplies.
5. Be thankful. Be supportive
Teachers’ jobs are more difficult than most people can imagine. The amount of work that they do during the week and on the weekends – to prepare lessons, ready their classroom, research best practices, work with specialists, mark and grade schoolwork, respond to parents, attend meetings, and continue their own education – is immense.
We need to be grateful for their hard work every day, and not just on ‘Teachers Day’ or at the end of the year. Sign your emails with a sincere “thank you for all you do”, and mean it. Ask what you can do to support them, and follow through.
Say thanks to the administration, the teacher assistants, the specialists, the sports coaches and the tuckshop workers because they’re all working towards creating a safe environment for your child to meet with success and have the best year possible.
As with most things in life, when it comes to school, attitude is everything. Start building up excitement for the coming year with positive thinking, conversation, and expectations.
As a parent, you get to be your kids’ biggest cheerleader, and now is a good time to remind them how much you believe in them. Whether they ace every test or struggle academically, make sure they know that you are proud of them and are there to see their efforts pay off.