As summer break draws to a close, parents and kids across Miami-Dade are busy checking off boxes on their back-to-school lists. But often missing among the entries of notebooks, pencils, rulers and backpacks are all-important strategies for success. These insider secrets – which cover everything from easing first-day jitters to boosting your kid’s brain power – get A+ results.
- Get excited! While kids may drag their feet at the thought of starting school, gathering supplies is an easy first step to ramping up their enthusiasm. Low-cost items like glittery stickers and book covers lend a brand-new look to binders and folders, while brightly colored pens and pencils, fun novelty erasers and cool-for-school calculators actually entice children to use them. You can also keep their enthusiasm revved up by talking about the opportunities that await them: field trips, creative outlets for learning, and after-school and social activities.
- Ease anxiety. The first day of school, whether it’s your kindergartener’s, sixth-grader’s or college freshman’s, is special – so pull out all the stops to play up the positives. Start their day with a little pomp and circumstance: a favorite family breakfast, a few selfies of them in their back-to-class clothes and a confidence-boosting pep talk that helps ease their fears. Let them in on a little secret, too: Even teachers can feel nervous the first day of school.
- Embrace organization. Children benefit from a sense of structure, especially when it comes to things like their educational materials. ”The main reason for… getting kids organized is that they will use those skills during the school year and also continue to be organized in the future,” says award-winning teacher Ron Clark, author of The Excellent 11: Qualities Teachers and Parents Use to Motivate, Inspire, and Educate Children. He recommends a notebook for each subject, a homework notebook and folder, and graded-paper folders (one for homework and one for tests). Clark notes that this structuring also helps parents keep track of work that needs to be completed.
- Promote problem-solving. Kids are naturally curious; instead of providing the answers they’re looking for, make them active participants in the process of decision-making. “Problem-solving ability is mostly a matter of attitude,” asserts Robert D. Ramsey, Ed.D., author of 501 Tips for Teachers: Kid-Tested Ideas, Strategies, and Inspirations. He stresses the concept that problems are friends. “Without them, there would be no challenge, no learning, no victory.” Help expand growing minds with brain-teasing games, contests and puzzles, recommends Ramsey. “Kids don’t know [something’s] hard when they’re having fun [learning about it].”
- Build a support network. From family members to outside resources (e.g., peer tutors or school counselors), a reliable group that can pitch in and help when needed makes all the difference between kids acing their grades and those that lag behind. “Grandparents make great… mentors, readers, storytellers and listeners,” notes Ramsey, who believes the older generation brings a special patience, love and wisdom to a child’s educational experience.