By Terry Hannum
The Daily Star
---- — Many children and adults look forward to the start of a new school year, (even if some don’t want to admit to it). It is a chance to start fresh with learning, make changes from the previous academic year, if needed, move on to new subjects, open sleek new notebooks, flaunt fall fashions and switch out of the summer routine, no matter how much fun it was.
Books, websites, conversations and school newsletters all offer plenty of advice on keys to education and learning success. Some words of wisdom are consistently present no matter where you turn for guidance. The reason for these repeated recommendations is that they work for just about everybody, even adults. Those who have difficulty getting children (or themselves) to do their homework, whose kids are late for school, procrastinate on assignments, lose books and papers, are sleepy in classes and develop a keen dislike of school are missing out on the amazing opportunities that the education in school offers.
15 Golden Rules for a Good Academic Year
1) Sleep is a consistent topic on all school success lists. As a society we have come to equate ambition, motivation and achievement with those who go to bed late in the night and get up early, but this idea is far from reality. Sleep is necessary for clear thinking, accurate listening, quick reflexes, rational emotions and good health. For young people this is of critical importance.
2) Establishing a school week routine helps eliminate the stress of rushing in the morning, forgotten papers and staying up too late. Betty Ann Post is a parent of middle school and high school children. She advised a family member who has young children just starting at school this year that the kids will need to switch to an entirely new schedule. The late-night summer routine will need to change to much earlier bedtimes. Their days at home with familiar surroundings and family will be replaced by a completely new situation for them, and that can be exhausting. A predictable schedule at home helps to slow the day down.
3) Day planners are sanity savers for college students and professionals but keeping one as early as middle school is a good starting place. South Kortright Central School Guidance Counselor Jo Boring suggested day planners as help for students who are moving from a homeroom-based classroom to class- and room-switching schedules. This is a stress-reducing resource that helps keep the days in order, tracks when assignments are due, marks changes in the regular schedule and highlights other important dates.
4) If possible to do before school begins, plan a gathering at a local park or playground with other children in the classroom and their parents. Boring suggested this as well as play time on weekends with your child and classmates to help build friendships. Those bonds help make school more enjoyable for shy or reluctant socializers and establish possible study and project partners. For parents, this is the foundation for learning more about what goes on at school for conversation topics in the future.
5) Young children who are not quite ready for the day-planner routine often have announcements, graded homework, new assignments and notes from teachers all stuffed into their backpacks. Make a daily routine of looking through the pack. That is Tammi Smith’s advice for parents of young children. In middle school and high school there is a tendency to not share many details of the day with parents, but the conversations about what went on at school helps with student success.
6) Study and homework before television, texting and games is a goal that is much easier said than done these days, but this advice makes every list on school-year success. South Kortright Central School Superintendent Pat Norton-White is also a parent and teacher. Norton-White talked about the importance of limiting the computer, games and television time. Monitoring how much time is spent using any electronic devices is difficult, but they become a key component of teaching children about time management and having priorities.
7) High school senior Miquela Hanselman offered great advice that has played a part in her scholastic success that also relates to time management. Hanselman explained that getting in the routine at the beginning of the school year of showing up on time and making it to all classes on time is important. She added that, in her experience, teachers are there to help, but students need to do their assignments, follow directions and seek them out for help if needed.
8) Reading always finds its way onto any lists that relate to doing well in school, and the sooner children develop a love of books, the easier most school classes become. Catherine Dixon is a college student studying to become a teacher, and she recommends that children are encouraged to read for pleasure. Reading opens the doors of imagination, experiences, situations and possibilities along with helping readers with learning to form opinions and make comparisons while improving vocabulary and grammar.
9) Norton-White addressed an all-encompassing issue in regards to positive academic experiences. She spoke about a holistic approach to learning that involves balance in all aspects of life and perhaps the pivotal key to all this is family. Family time for conversation about what has gone on during the day for all members during dinner is ideal but not always possible. If not dinner time, story time, at breakfast or doing chores, as close to daily as possible make a time where parents can hear about classes, friends, school activities and any worries. These interactions create an atmosphere of familiarity and understanding within the family that school is important.
10) Food and exercise for health and focus are other aspects of academic success with scientific studies to back it up. It is also part of the holistic balance that Norton-White referred to where family, healthy habits, time management and the school community contribute to a student’s positive school experiences. Everyone has heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it really is true, for energy and attention. Pat has observed that material pressures often outweigh school pressures, especially as the year starts. Fall fashions, the latest shoes and new accessories can take center stage instead of focusing on the excitement of new subjects and learning. Make learning the priority in your home.
11) Boring also mentioned the importance of making connections with the teachers. Plan a time that you can meet with them to introduce yourself. Teachers are there because they have a keen interest and educational background in particular topics but, most importantly, have a desire to pass this knowledge on to others. They want your child to learn, so having an idea of their teaching style and expectations along with an understanding that you as parent or guardian would like to have frequent updates can make the school year a positive experience.
12) Don’t give up, speak up and ask about learning the material a different way are all part of a valuable relationship that parents, teachers and students can work on together. Parents can be the best advocates for putting a stop to the “why do I have to learn this?” by finding examples of why a certain topic or subject can be relevant outside of the classroom and assignments. Dixon added to this as she explained how important it is for students to learn to ask teachers for help when they need it. This lesson, this ability to address teachers with their questions, will help them out for all their future education and employment.
13) Be organized. At the start of this school year make a plan to always put school backpacks in the same spot. Important school papers always get put into a special, noticeable place so that they can be found, read, signed and returned promptly. Designate a specific study area that is away from the loud confusion and distractions where school books stay along with handy reference material and supplies, without gaming devices, televisions or phones.
14) High school students and their parents can benefit from becoming acquainted with school guidance office personnel. Smith explained that the guidance office is where students can find resources relating to colleges and scholarships, application assistance, resumes and career planning.
15) Keep a mindset of privilege verses required. In the United States’ not-so distant past, and in many current situations in many other countries, school has been or remains a precious opportunity that only a select few are allowed to enjoy. School is a ticket to improve oneself, the community and the world. Having an education opens doors, creates change and grants freedom. Those who have experienced or witnessed lack of schools or denial for some to attend know firsthand how valuable the privilege of school is.