An Insider’s Back-To-School Secrets

K-12 Tips from a Teacher for a Successful School Year!

By Taylor Koesser, Special Education Resource Teacher

While it probably feels like summer just started, back to school will creep up on you before you know it. Maybe you’re dreading it, or perhaps you’re counting down the literal minutes until your child goes back to school. Regardless of how you may feel, there are things you’ll have to do to prepare for that first day of school.

As a teacher myself, I happen to know a thing or two about this. Here’s my list of back-to-school tips for kindergarten through high school.

Kindergarten

First of all, it’s okay to be anxious! It’s a big change for you and your child. There are plenty of things you can do to alleviate some fears for the both of you.

Discuss with your child the plan for their drop off and pick up for school.
Every year, we see kids unsure of where they need to go and how they are going to get home. Typically, you will let your child’s teacher know when you meet them. At my school specifically, teachers will make note of who is walking home, riding their bike, taking the bus, or having a parent/guardian picking them up. While this is helpful, start discussing with your little one early what their mode of transportation home will be. They need to understand what they are doing in addition to their teacher knowing. If they have older siblings attending school, plan with them a place to meet up. In addition to this, you can start discussing what the morning routine will look like. If you have an especially anxious kiddo, this will be helpful as they will know what to expect ahead of time. Start talking to them about what time they’ll need to wake up and what they’ll need to do to get ready for school, which leads me to my next point…

Establish a bedtime routine in advance.
It’s easy to get out of your normal routine if you have other kids on summer break! With that being said, it’s so important to start creating a routine early so that by the time the first day of school rolls around, your child is already used to going to bed when expected. They will probably be exhausted during their first week of school, regardless of any preschool or daycare they may have previously attended. Ensuring that they go to bed at an appropriate time will help this transition to school go smoothly.

It’s okay if their first day, or even first week, is all over the place.
There are a LOT of new things your child is going to go through within that first week of school. It’s okay if there are many tears (that includes you). The kindergarten teachers anticipate this, and I can promise you, they’ve seen it all. Kids come from different backgrounds and have varied exposure to school, and kindergarten teachers know this. Don’t feel discouraged if you and your child take a little longer to acclimate to this new routine. You’ll get through it and (hopefully) look back on it fondly!

1st grade- 6th grade

Alright, you’ve survived kindergarten. You’ve made it through back to school once, maybe even a few times. With that being said, you could still be in the market for some ideas to make this whole thing go a bit smoother than last year. Don’t sweat it. I’ve got you covered.

Routine, routine, routine.
If you read my tips for Kindergarten, you probably already saw my recommendation for getting back into a bedtime routine. The younger your kids are, the earlier you may want to start this. Kids truly thrive on routine and when they know the expectations of things. Additionally, the older your kids are, the more likely they are to stay up later in the summertime than they normally would during the school year.

Keep up those reading and math skills.
It may be worth reviewing some math facts and sight words (if your child is in the lower grades) before they start back to school. You may have been practicing all summer, or maybe you haven’t even thought about it (which is okay!). You know your child and what their needs are. There are a lot of free resources online.
Resource: K-5 learning is a great website that has free printable activities https://www.k5learning.com/

Make it fun!
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, back to school was a fun time. Create some traditions with your kids that they can look forward to every year. Back-to-school shopping is a perfect way to do this. Schools usually have a list of things that each grade-level teacher requests. (I know sometimes it seems like a lot, but I promise they have a reason behind whatever they are asking for.) If you’re able to, take your child with you! Allow them to help out and make choices in what you buy (within reason, of course). When kids can have some autonomy and take ownership of things, they are more likely to have a positive attitude about whatever it is they are doing.

Another inexpensive way to make things fun is by reading books about back to school. There are a ton of social-emotional learning books on topics such as anxiety, making new friends, and, honestly, anything you can think of. If you have a specific book you’d like to read but don’t have the extra money to buy something, YouTube has free read-aloud books you can listen to with your child.

For older kids, start the tradition of writing them a first-day-of-school note. This gives them something to look forward to and can be as quick as an “I love you” on a sticky note in their lunch box. Maybe you write them a longer one the night before the first day of school just to wish them good luck. I know 5th and 6th graders may act like they are too cool, but I would be willing to bet they secretly love it and even look forward to it in the years to come.

Junior High

Oh, Junior High. It has a bad reputation. Would I go back? Probably not. However, it can be a really fun time, and talking about it positively will help ease your child’s mind if they are going into 6th or 7th grade, depending on where you live.

It’s a lot like starting kindergarten.
It’s new and not new. Your child has been going to school for a while now. You’ve survived when they were five and anxiously waiting to go to school. Now, they are hormonal and trying to figure themselves out. It adds an entirely new set of obstacles. Just like kindergarten ended up being okay, junior high will, too.

Open conversations are key.
One of the best ways to ease your child’s mind is to try to have conversations about school. What are you nervous about? Is there something I can do to alleviate some of your stress? If they don’t want to talk, let them know you’re here for them. It sounds cliche, but sometimes just verbalizing to them that you get it, you’ve been there, and you’re available when they need it is all they need.

The schedule, the classes, the stuff.
The big thing about transitioning to Jr. High is switching classes and having all new teachers. Some elementary schools have students rotate classes starting as early as 4th grade, but this isn’t always the case. It could be completely new, and that’s okay. Your child probably already signed up for their classes, and just like when they get a new teacher for the school year, they’ll get a schedule. Help them look at where their classrooms are and what order their classes are in. If their school offers a time to tour the campus and walk their schedule, I HIGHLY recommend you do so. Encourage them to go with a friend or two. Again, make it fun.

High School

Similarly to junior high, you’ve got teenagers that have a lot going on. These teens have the added responsibilities of driving, jobs, and sports, as well as school and homework. Try to remind them of the things they need to do while encouraging their independence and autonomy. Help them set up a schedule for after school so they can keep things balanced. If they work, help them prioritize their other responsibilities. Most teenagers at this point generally know what they are doing when they go back to school.

“Senioritis”
If you’ve got a senior, they may need help looking into colleges and being aware of deadlines for applications. It can be overwhelming to start this process. If college isn’t their thing, trade schools are a great option. Maybe they just need a year to work. Regardless of their plan (or lack thereof), it’s important to show your support and interest in what they want to do. There are big changes ahead, and that’s overwhelming for all parties involved. Do your best to remember when you were a senior and approach it all with compassion.

I hope that this back-to-school guide is helpful. There is no perfect list that will fully capture your child’s unique needs, but this will hopefully be a good starting point! I wish you all a smooth transition back to school with minimal tears. Time flies, so enjoy all the little things that this season brings.

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