Updated: Feb 6
Let’s get back into the classroom!
It’s official! School is back for the year, and many students get ready to enter their halls of learning to expand their knowledge base and grow to be contributing members of society… Wait, doesn’t sound like your child? You are not the only one. Most children dread going back into the classroom after getting such a long mental break.
What seems to be the lack of enthusiasm? Is it the fact that many schools have lost the ability to treat learning as an adventure and treat learning more like task-based testing factories? Maybe. Is it that teachers are more interested in making it through the year than helping your child make the grade? Could be. Or, is your child more concerned with their social status than they are with their GPA? There are so many reasons why children have an issue with going back to school. How can we as concerned parents and educators ease the thorn of the back-to-school season? Here are a few ideas.
Throw a back-to-school celebration – If you make going back to school look like a celebration, it may not seem so bad. This is a time where you can celebrate their past accomplishments and help them set new goals for the year. By making it a small party, it makes school appear like a place to succeed, and not just a place that sucks.
Be concerned (not obsessed) with their first few weeks – Yes, you have a lot on your schedule. But, if you simply use the first few days as a conversation piece, you may see that your child likes the extra attention and interest you are showing in their lives. Don’t go overboard! Make it a conversation, not an interrogation. Many people like good conversation; I don’t know too many people who like to get the third degree.
Let them be with their friends – Just because the summer is over doesn’t mean that they are on lock down. It’s still warm outside, the sun is still shining, let them play. This gives them a chance to let go of the summer gradually and ease into a regimented schedule. Yes, they need to do all homework first, but if they’ve been doing any summer bridge work over the summer like they’re supposed to, they’ll be no stranger to the concept of work before play.
Ice Breaker Activities – Yes, the beginning of the year is to set the climate for the rest of the year, but don’t use the entire first week of school as a boot camp to set the norms of your class. There is a time for setting class norms, and a time for breaking the ice in a new classroom. Play some group games, get the class involved in a group activity early. Of course you have to set tone of the year, but from my experience, the year always went smoother after easing the students in to the year, not slapping them with a lot of procedures or tests in the first few days. If you need some more ideas, try this link from Scholastic
Get an email list of all your parents (and use it) – This is a no-brainer. Sending a welcome email to all the parents welcoming them into the year opens the lines of communication among you and your parents. Now, you can send assignments home, get feedback, report discipline issues, get permission slips, and a host of other advantages. Do I have to mention instant documentation? This takes some of the pressure off of you as a teacher to be accountable and transparent to your parents. It also makes it easier to teach your students (and parents) accountability (ask me how) . Lastly, It enables trust between you and your parents… priceless. Many teachers say they don’t have time for all that. I say: Better over-inform them and be left alone than be untouchable and hounded by parents when they are already frustrated. I learned that the hard way.
Schools should organize a back to school rally (with actual fun things to do) – Kids would love coming back to school if they know that they get to have fun during the first day/week. I know it goes against the entire philosophy of setting a demure atmosphere of learning and rules, but if some time is set aside for a communal celebration about education and school, it will create the school wide-climate that school is actually a fun place to be — at least for a little while. Organize a pep rally about education and get everyone involved.
School is a serious undertaking, but if we keep painting it as a horrible place to be, the negative stigma will continue. If we want education to improve, we must show students that education is a privilege, not a jail sentence. Get them to enjoy the process now before they grow into adults and have to conform into a mundane 9 to 5 later and get no such thing as a summer break (unless they become educators themselves… lol) .