Back to School and Off to a Great Start

Veteran fourth-grade teacher Rob Ware offers advice for parents readying for the back-to-school season
Aug. 09, 2014 @ 11:12 AM

With school supplies flying off the shelves and the dog-days of summer quickly making way for autumn, both children and teachers are nervously counting down to the “BIG DAY” when school finally starts. As the proud parent of teenage boys and a fourth and fifth-grade teacher for more than 15 years, I wanted to share some top tips on how to alleviate those back to school jitters, ease back into a structured schedule and help you and yours get ready for an exciting school year.

Like clockwork: During the lazy days of summer break, many kids and parents say good-bye to that pesky alarm clock, not to mention totally forgoing sensible bedtimes. While the idea of putting your child to bed before the sun sets may seem impossible, enforcing a set bedtime is paramount when it comes to making sure his or her brain and body are rested and ready for the busy weeks ahead.  Slowly begin adjusting your child’s sleep-wake cycle two weeks prior to the first day of school in 30 minute increments and increase from there. According to the National Sleep Council, the amount of sleep a child needs varies with age;  however, school-age children need at least 10 hours a day.

Throw the book at them: For some children, summer break is filled with countless trips to the library or hours spent huddled up with a Kindle reading. For others, cracking a book can be as ‘un-fun’ as being forced into cleaning their room. Dusting off a child’s reading skills can be fun and painless, but best of all, it can help get them excited about reading throughout the school year. Planning a special trip to the bookstore, perusing thrift shops or online for books related to your child’s interest or hobbies can help build excitement. Remember parents, reading books each day before school starts about football, animals, Transformers or little ponies can spark a love of reading that lasts a lifetime.

Who you gonna call? One of the most important things parents can do for their child is to select appropriate emergency contacts. Make sure the emergency contact knows what is expected of him/her and that phone numbers are current. Be sure to choose at least one emergency contact who is available to pick your child up from school in the event of an emergency.

In the bag: Shopping for school supplies with your child can be a tortuous task requiring the high-powered negotiation skills of a seasoned lawyer. However, setting boundaries and a working budget before you hit the stores can transform a trying shopping trip into a teachable moment for you and your child. For younger children, start by helping them scan the Sunday newspaper, sale flyers and coupons for good deals. From there, compile a ‘wish list’ of the top items your child needs/wants, set a budget and help them stick to it. Before taking older children and before you go shopping for school supplies, inventory the supplies left over from last year. There are some things that don’t have to be “new” every year. Try to reuse headphones, flash drives, calculators, binders, scissors, backpacks and lunch boxes. Make sure you print your child’s first and last name on just about everything.

What’s the big deal? Finally, a good way to keep back to school anxiety away is to involve the whole family. Get excited and let your children know how much you support their education. Celebrate the last few, precious days of summer by planning for a fun-filled school year full of growing, learning and laughter and before you know it, summer break will be here again.

Rob Ware is a fourth-grade teacher at Pilot Elementary School in Thomasville.