Educators offer back to school suggestions

Five major suggestions emerged from 38 Minnesota educators who responded to a request about brief “back to school” advice for families. I asked them what they recommend families do to help youngsters get ready for school. These educators offered specific, practical advice. Virtually nothing these educators suggested requires spending money.

The most frequently cited ideas involved the following:

• Moving back into a school year sleep schedule.
• Encouraging and helping young people set goals.
• Talking positively about the value of learning and schooling.
• Developing or reconfirming a positive relationship with educators.
• Modeling the kind of actions, attitudes and behaviors that you want young people to develop.

Here’s what educators in this area suggested.

Forest Lake Public Schools Superintendent Linda Madsen wrote the following: “At the start of any new or familiar significant experience, it is comforting and reassuring to children when trusted adults talk with them and listen to them. Explain your perceptions of the experience and what you believe will be important and meaningful as well as what might be concerning or challenging. Have a game plan in place should those concerns and challenges arise. Also have a plan in place to celebrate successes.”

Cam Hedlund, executive director at Lakes International Language Academy in Forest Lake, said that he “suggests families talk about who the students are excited to see again, what activities they want to try, and what their hopes and dreams are for the coming year. When both the parents and children share their perspectives, it’s a strong way to build interest in school and understanding about expectations.” He added that teachers at LILA begin the school year with a similar discussion.

North Lakes Academy Executive Director Cam Stottler wrote: “Along with the basic necessary school supplies, NLA encourages families to begin preparing for the start of school by making any necessary adjustments beforehand in sleep schedules – as research continually suggests how important getting enough sleep is for students – by discussing some goals both the student and family would like to accomplish this coming year, and by seeking out any assistance needed for preparing for this school year through our website or reaching out to administration. By preparing yourself both physically with sleep and diet, and mentally with goal-setting and seeking assistance (or a plan for assistance if none is currently needed), students will be ready to take on the rigorous challenges that lie ahead.”

Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, suggested: “Use the final weeks of summer to ease back into school routines by setting aside a time and place for homework and enforcing a steady schedule of bedtimes and wake-up times. Once school starts, communicate with your child’s teachers and learn the best ways to contact them and so you can learn about what is happening in the classroom. Always remember you are your child’s learning role model. Show you like to read, write and know how to use technology appropriately.”

Like families, these educators are committed to students’ success. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and no money is needed to follow these five recommendations. Only time, thought and effort are required. However, following these suggestions will have real, positive results.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, is a former director and now senior fellow at the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at [email protected]