Heading Back-To-School

Heading Back-To-School

August means summer is officially coming to an end. I trade in my hiking shoes and adventure journal for tennis shoes and a spiral notebook filled with To Do Lists. Back-To-School is looming ahead quickly!

Lots of hours have been spent in my new classroom this past week: figuring out how to decorate, putting items into place, thinking about the students I am going to have soon. I put a lot of thought into what I want to teach my students socially/emotionally as well as academically, and how to set up my classroom that will foster the skills and attitudes to accomplish that. I’ve been reading books on the topics I’ll be teaching so I can become an expert and help direct questions to correct sources. In a few days I’ll be working with my team to make sure we are all on the same page with rules, expectaions, and discipline so we come together as a unified front. I’m nervous to be starting someplace new, but also excited to meet new people and have a new experience!

I’m sure my students are also experiencing similar emotions. Sad to see the end of long lazy days but excited to be back with friends. That is why today I want to share some tips and tricks for getting ready to go back to school. No, I’m not going to talk about what brands of pencils to purchase (Ticondaroga . . . *cough*) or which teacher grade book is the must have for the season. Let’s get a bit more real.

Tip #1: Schedule Some Fun

Although a return to routines is a good thing for most kids (and adults), losing freedom is a struggle. At my house, we try to pack as many adventures into the summer as possible! This makes getting back to “normal” sound boring and brings on a bad case of dulldrums. I’m trying to do better at remembering that we still have weekends availabe to us. My boys and I sat down this week to list the things and places we had hoped to make it to, but haven’t – yet. Then we scheduled some weekend time for those things — three day weekend means we will get to head out to Fantasy Canyon in Vernal, Utah. We will take another Saturday and visit The Leonardo Museum. Another weekend is a great time to ride Trax to Draper for Ice Cream and the Aquarium.

Not only do we get to continue doing adventures and make memorites together, but we now have something fun to already look forward to when things get a bit stressful. What things can you put down on a weekend that everyone will look forward to doing together?

Tip #2: Tour the School

If you are returning to the same school, you may not feel like this is a necessary step. However, it is always nice to be in the halls whithout a lot of people. If you go the week before school starts, you are likely to have some one-on-one time with the teachers. Word of advice if you do meet the teacher — keep it brief. Teachers are thining baout getting their classroom up, curriculum, trainings, learning names . . . there is a LOT going on in their heads!

If you are starting at a new school, this is a definate MUST. Giving the kids time to figure out the environment before starting eases anxiety and helps them feel a sense of ownership. When my older girls were in junior high and high school, they would take 10 minutes a day to walk around the school. When they finally got their school schedules, they already knew the layout of the school and it made first day jitters managable. Taking friends along makes it a social event and builds some bonds that start the year off right.

Also, if your student is new to lockers, practice the combination. I tell my new 7th graders that lockers are the hardest part of junior high. Even now, I have nightmares that I forget my locker combination and am late to class!

As a former teacher of kiddos with special needs, this is probably the most important step. Every year I had the same kids come in to make sure they knew the routines, see if teachers had moved rooms, and where their safe spaces were going to be. Usually not much changed, but it was reassuring to them to see the space.

Guess what section of my room went up first? The Calm Corner! Whatif Monster and the Spots are ready for action!

Tip #3: Start The School Routine Now

As best as we can, we start the school routine when August comes around. Bedtimes are set, wake-up times are set. We even get the jobs and weekly menu back on the board in the command startion. This year I need a refresh, so that is under construction and will be finished as soon as board in my classroom are up for Back-to-School Night.

Do you know how many hours of sleep your kids need? Check out this article from KidsHealth to make sure you have enought sleeping time planned.

I also recommend a family meeting to set up calendars for a “typical” week. This way everyone knows who is supposed to be where at what time and on what days. I also limit my kids to one activity in elementary school, two in middle, and three in high school. This way I’m not running around like a craxy person trying to do all the things.

Tip #4: Word of the Year and Goals

What do you want to learn this year?

What do you hope to get better at?

Who do you want to be as a friend and a student?

These are questions I ask my kids (and myself). It leads to good discussions about what our family values, how they see themselves now, and how to work towards a long-term goal. When my kids say they “want to get good grades” I make them define what “good grades” are. Then we discuss the steps they need to take to get those grades. Working through chunking goals into managable steps is a skill that they will take into adulthood.

Remeber my Word of the Year posts? This is another time when picking a word to direct things is a great idea! When I work wiht teens, picking a theme song is also a fun way to set the tone for the school year. I know it helps me refocus when it gets difficult or I don’t feel excited about going to school. Yes, even teachers get tired of the school routine sometimes!

Tip #5 Jump Start Learning

I’m sure you have been reading all summer — especally if you followed my Summer Slide Solutions. If you did the Reading Challenge, be sure to let me know so I can get you prizes!

If the summer passed you up, now is the perfect time to start engaging your brain! Read a book, write a journal about your summer, do some basic math drills. Need book recommendations? I’ve got you covered! I have reading, writing and math books for all ages! Check out my online store for the whole catalog.

I love getting books into homes, so this month I have a special going. Host an easy online gathering with me in August and you can choose up to $50 of products and just PAY your date! For example, you can host a party on August 10th and only pay $10 for that bundle of $50!

A gentle reminder that if you are buying new clothes because they have outgrown last year’s, it is also a good time to refresh their book shelves. Yes learning is important, but help them select some just for fun books to read, or a new puzzle to do together. Help them see learning as fun, and not a task they have to do for 8 hours each day.

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What do you do to get ready for school to start up again? What tips or tricks do you use?

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