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It’s All About Education: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

 

Lauri Lee

It’s that time of year again. Parents who have been scrambling for child care all summer, juggling camp drop-offs and play dates are probably looking forward to it. Those who’ve been enjoying the lazy, relaxed days of summer are probably dreading it. Staples brilliantly captured the ups and the downs in this ad from 2009.  

Going back to school brings up lots of emotions for everyone involved. Most teachers are excited for the new school year, which brings with it a new group of students and hopefully time to collaborate with colleagues and try out new techniques. Many of them have worked hard over the summer to recharge their own batteries and attend professional development workshops to keep their skills fresh and their enthusiasm high. Generally, they got into this line of work because they like it! 

Some kids love school, and they can’t wait to get back to see their friends and start learning again. For too many kids, school is the only place where they get regular meals and have a reliable routine. Some students are not quite as happy, as they may be frustrated by the academic and physical demands of school: paying attention, staying seated for long stretches, and the limited time for socializing with friends. 

Parents, too, have different feelings about school. While they may view school through the lens of their own experience, each new school year also represents the passage of time: with every September, children start new grades and pass milestones. Regardless of individual family members’ feelings about school, a new school year can be stressful for everyone. 

The American Psychological Association suggests that parents ease back into the school routine by starting a week early. If your child’s bedtime has been more relaxed over the summer, now is the time to re-establish a good sleep pattern. Organizing school supplies and picking out a first day outfit ahead of time will also help your child feel more ready. 

A website called Be a Learning Hero, established by the National PTA and several other partners, offers recommendations for parents to ensure that children have a successful year. Focused primarily on academic achievement, the website suggests that parents understand their child’s learning goals and strengths/weaknesses, establish a relationship with the school and the teacher(s), and support learning at home through the use of resources such as Khan Academy. 

If your child has a lot of anxiety about returning to school, there are even apps for smartphones or tablets that can help. Designed to help kids identify their feelings and sources of stress, these apps help ease their worries through writing, listening to music, or performing deep breathing. 

Helping your child role play different situations can also help her to feel more confident about starting a new school year. Many kids aren’t sure how to react to new circumstances, which causes anxiety. Help your child brainstorm about things that might happen at school and various ways to respond. You might talk about meeting new people, not knowing the answer to a question, or seeing unfamiliar foods in the cafeteria. Give your child the language to express himself and stand up for himself. 

Enlisting the teacher as a partner is also key to ensuring that your child has a positive experience at school. The teacher wants your child to succeed as much as you do; your child’s learning and good behavior reflects well on both of you. If your school offers a home visit, a parent-teacher meeting, or Back to School night, take advantage of these opportunities. If you have time, call or write the teacher a note to share your child’s strengths and your expectations for the year. Make sure that your child knows that you respect the teacher and that he or she is there to help. 

Finally, remember that morning experiences can set the tone for the whole day. If your family has difficulty getting up in the morning, set the alarm clock for 15 minutes earlier than necessary. No one enjoys feeling rushed or arguing in the morning. Stress raises cortisol levels, and high levels of cortisol can interfere with learning. Take the time to eat breakfast, smile at one another, and share something positive. All family members will have a more successful day, regardless of whether they’re going to school or work. 

Lauri Lee is an independent consultant with over twenty years of experience in both public and private education, with learners from infants through adults. With experience in teaching, marketing, communications, social media, development, admissions, and technology, she is able to synthesize many of the issues facing our educational system today. She lives in Providence, RI with her family, a big dog, and a small cat. She blogs at http://www.AllAboutEducation.net and you can follow her on Twitter at @fridovichlee. 

 

Related Slideshow: RI Experts on the Biggest Issues Facing Public Education

On Friday November 22, the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University, the Latino Policy Institute of Roger Williams University, the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, the Providence Student Union, and RI-CAN: Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now will host Rhode Island leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors for a symposium on "the civil rights issue of the 21st century, adequacy and equity and the State of Education in Rhode Island."

Weighing in on the the "three biggest factors" facing education in the state today are symposium participatnts Gary Sasse, Founding Director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Leadership; Christine Lopes Metcalfe, Executive Director of RI-CAN; Anna Cano-Morales, Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, Central Falls Public Schools and Director, Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University; Tim Duffy, Executive Director, RI Association of School Committees; and Deborah Cylke, Superintendent of Pawtucket Public Schools.  

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Sasse

"Provide a state constitutional guarantee that all children will have access to  an education that will prepare them to meet high performance standards and be successful adults.

Bridge the gap between the educational achievement of majority and minority students.  This will require the implementation of a comprehensive agenda for quality education in Rhode Island’s inner cities."

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Sasse

"Revisit school governance and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the state, school districts , neighborhood schools, and school teachers and school administrators.  Develop and implement a system to hold schools responsible for student outcomes."

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Sasse

"Build a consensus and buy in of all stakeholders around  the education reform initiatives being advanced by the Board of Education."

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Metcalfe

"Set high expectations and raise our standards across the state for anyone that contributes to the success of our students. From adopting the Common Core to discussing rigorous teacher evaluations, conversations around creating a culture of high expectations have to be at the center of the work."

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Metcalfe

"Expand opportunities and start earlier - we must ensure that all kids have access to a high performing public school of their choice, which includes full-day kindergarten."

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Metcalfe

"School facilities - with an aging infrastructure, underutilized buildings and the need to provide fair funding for school facilities for all public school students regardless of the public school they attend, this needs to be a top issue tackled by the RI General Assembly in 2014."

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Cano-Morales

"Meet the academic potential of all students but especially with regards to urban schools students -- 3 out of 4 are Latinos in Providence, Central Falls, and Pawtucket." 

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Cano-Morales

"Connect through specific best practices the academic successes of our students to careers jobs. Investing in schools is economic development as a whole for Rhode Island. " 

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Cano-Morales

"Increase the access to -- and completion of -- higher education and post- secondary opportunities.  Poverty? Struggling families? Education and access to careers and competitive wages is the best antidote."

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Duffy

"Providing adequate funding is critical -- and there are going to be pressures on the state budget, which mean stresses to meet the education funding formula.  With the predictions of the state's projected loss of revenue with the casinos in MA, education funding could be on the cutting board, and we need to ensure that it's not.  Do we need to look at strengthening the language of the constitution to guarantee funding?"

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Duffy

"Implementing the common core standards will provide continuity -- and comparison -- between states now.  With over 40 states involved, we're embarking a new set of standards here."

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Duffy

"Accountability and assessing student performance -- how that it's driven by the common core, we'll be able to compare the best districts in RI against the best districts in say MA.  That's the intent of the Common Core is a standardization of how we hold the system accountable."

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Cylke

"Issue one is quality.  Your quality of education should not be dependent on your zip code.  And the reality is, certain cities are distressed, or whose property values are not as high, I know each town has a different capacity to fund education. There's an absolute, clear relationship between the quality of public schools, and economic development of states. There's irrefutable evidence that quality public schools can make states more competitive."

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Cylke

"Issue two is equality.  In West Warwick and Providence, the per pupil spending is around $16K.  In Pawtucket it's $12.9.  What's wrong with that picture? If I'm in charge of overseeing that my students are college ready, they need to be adequate funding.  A difference of $3000 per pupil?  We're talking in the tens of millions of dollars -- more like $25 million in this case.  An exemplary school district is Montgomery County, MD -- they have roughly the same number of students, around 145,000 -- there's one funding figure per pupil. There's equitable funding for all kids."

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Cylke

"Issue three is Infrastructure.  A critical issue is whether the state is going to lift its moratorium in 2014 for renovations for older schools, ore new construction.  If that moratorium is not lifted, and those funds are not available, it is critical to us here in Pawtucket. The average of my schools is 66 years, I've got 3 that celebrate 100 years this year. These old schools have good bones, but they need to be maintained.  These are assets -- and this is all interrelated with the funding formula."

 
 

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