Back to school: Tips to start the year right

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

Back to school.

This phrase for many means getting colored pens to write notes, a fresh and clean backpack for your supplies or getting new shoes just because it’s a new school year.

As another year approaches, students and teachers are eagerly awaiting to get the ball rolling. But with every new year, there are obstacles students and educators face.

Teachers have the responsibility of preparing a classroom, setting up lesson plans and creating the foundation for the school year, while trying to make it a fun place to learn.

For students, depending on their grade level, they have to get the correct supplies, keep up on summer reading or attend orientation.

Whether you are a parent, educator or student, here are some tips from local teachers about how to start the school year off right and make it a smooth transition from laying by the pool to studying at a desk.

Shift to a school routine

A crucial tip is to help students readjust to a school schedule.

“If (students) have been able to sleep in late and stay up late, start to adjust their bedtimes and morning times,” said Tara Hilkin, a fourth grade teacher at Kennedy Elementary School in Dubuque.

Do not wait until the night before school starts to get your student back on a regular sleep schedule. Begin a few weeks prior to help make the transition easier, Hilkin said.

Another recommendation is to continue reading while outside of school.

“For elementary school students especially, keep reading throughout the summer so that the reading skills are not lost,” Hilkin said.

Also, involve your student in decision-making and problem-solving, whether it is buying school supplies, picking out snack options or planning lunches.

Educators recommend students have some say in the preparation process.

“Involving them in some of the decisions so that they can take ownership and be more responsible for the school year,” Hilkin said.

With making decisions, there also comes problems.

Instructional coach at Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School in Dubuque Danette Nilles-Putchio advised to talk through problems with students and help them see all possibilities before jumping to a conclusion or solution.

“At the middle school level, the best way for parents to prepare their children is to help them to be independent, to be problem solvers, to not be afraid of making mistakes, and most importantly, to be kind to everyone,” she said.

Limit screen time

Screen time is a debated topic among parents and teachers.

As technology continues to grow, and as more children are using it, it leaves many parents and educators asking, “How much is too much?” “When should we put screens away for the day?”

According to the Pew Research Center, 86% of parents of a child age 5 to 11 say they limit the time of day or length of time their child can use screens.

Nilles-Putchio, an educator for 27 years, agreed.

“Set a time when all screens are put away for the night,” she said.

Doing this can allow your students to allow their mind to have some downtime before they go to bed, giving them a better night’s sleep for busy school days, no matter the grade.

Look at class schedules

A tip especially essential for high school students is to assess your class schedule.

Upon the transition from middle to high school, there will be additional stressors that could present themselves. But knowing what types of classes you will be taking, who your teachers are and what your workload might look like could help in eliminating unnecessary stress.

Rebecca Fellenzer, a school counselor at Dubuque Hempstead High School, said this is an essential strategy that will be a huge benefit to your student.

“Make sure you are taking classes that provide you with a challenge and also some electives courses you want to take,” she said.

Taking care of your mind

One of the most important things to take care of, especially during the school year, is brain health.

With the stress of classes, homework, extracurriculars and other factors, it can be overwhelming for students and teachers. Finding solutions can be beneficial. Know that it’s OK to take breaks while studying or doing homework. It also is recommended to learn time-management skills.

“Take care of your brain health and work toward a healthy balance of school, friends, social media, extracurricular involvement and work,” Fellenzer said.

Have fun

Going back to school does not have to be a dreadful experience. It is important to know — whether you are a student, teacher or parent — that the new school year brings a fresh start and an exciting time to make new connections.

“I’m always excited to see the kids and how much they have changed over the summer, and I am looking forward to meeting all of our new students,” Nilles-Putchio said.

“I am most looking forward to seeing the students,” Fellenzer added. “I hope that this coming school year, we are able to get back to all the normal high school activities that help students make lasting memories.”

“We want our students to know that their job for the school year is to have fun, learn and know that it is a safe place for everybody to work together,” Hilkin said.

Katie Link is a freelance writer from Dubuque.

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