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Summer All Year Long: Back to school as smoothly as possible

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So, it’s goodbye to August and hello to autumn! September blues! And yet there are no rules or regulations stating is has to be this way, so why do a certain percentage of the population write-off the summer so readily? Who are these people? Trick question? No, not really. Maybe the answer that would spring to most people’s minds is: teachers! After all, rumour has it that teachers spend most of the year on vacations. Truth is, once a teacher, always a teacher and guess what…the majority of dedicated teachers are never on a break. Their minds are constantly working overtime trying to come up with ways to make teaching more fun for their pupils, preparing materials for the coming year and planning the curriculum. They are attending seminars or workshops to enhance their professional development and juggling their demanding career with their personal life. And, actually, their salaries don’t afford them too many holidays. No, it is not the teachers who suffer from September blues. It is the pupils and their parents who say goodbye to the summer prematurely. Or more precisely, the parents of the pupils.

 

By Sandy Geranis Kladakis and Annette Morley, Doukas School


Imagine, there you are, minding your own business as you construct the most impressive sandcastle the world has ever seen, the gentle lapping of the waves soothing your soul, when suddenly, the grown-ups appear and tell you to grab your bucket and spade as if you don’t hurry up you are all going to miss the ferry-boat home. One minute you were a semi-naked, free spirit exploring the rock pools and the next you are thrown into the oblivion of back to school anxiety. No sooner have you disembarked from the ferry-boat than you are in the shops being measured for your uniform, PE gear and footwear. You go to more shops and have to choose from ten thousand school bags and pencil-cases, all the time being told to ‘get a move on, we haven’t got all day’. Then come the endless hours in the bookshop and the sighs and gasps mum makes as she wonders how you are ever going to be able to carry such a weight. This whole ‘back-to-school experience’ is already becoming pretty intimidating and the most impressive sandcastle the world has ever seen a very distant memory.


Should you be a first-grader, starting school should get off to a better start than the pre-mentioned. Should you be any grade, returning to school after the summer holidays should be something you look forward to and not dread. But you are the little person, so maybe the focus should be on your parents or guardians. So, adults, you have had your long-deserved annual holiday in the sun and it is time to go back to work. Let’s face it, if you don’t go back to work, this time next year there simply won’t be a holiday in the sun. How about holding on to some of that sunshine and turning the negative feelings in to positive ones? How about turning your children’s ‘back-to-school experience’ in to an adventure?


We educators could really use your full support, adults. We really do go out of our way to try to treat your child as the unique individual that they are and pave the way for them to have a great day, every day at school. However, without your backing, whatever we try to accomplish simply can’t be done. We really need you to be on our side and together we can work to offer your child the optimum school experience.

 

 


Let’s consider how we can ensure that starting school/returning to school goes as smoothly as can be.

  • Ease into a new routine
  • Make school preparation fun
  • Attend the school’s Open Day
  • Meet the teacher
  • Arrange play dates
  • Provide reassurance

Ease into a new routine:
Before the annual vacation ends, start discussing the new routine that is about to begin. Begin getting up at a certain time in the mornings. Resume having meals at set times, in particular make sure there is plenty of time for breakfast. Practice personal hygiene regimes and getting dressed. Get used to having clothes ready from the night before. If your child will be taking a packed lunch to school, start discussing possible menus. Once you return home, make a trial run to school so your child starts to become familiar with the route and approximately how long it will take to get to school and home again. Point out landmarks along the way.

 


Make school preparation fun:
The shopping trips in order to get organised for school should be done together. Treat the event as though you are going out to buy a birthday present. Respect your child’s choices (within reason). Make a list together. If you can afford to do so, buy extra supplies and set up a space in your child’s room where they will feel comfortable to do their homework. Have a separate drawer/wardrobe for school clothing. Teach your child to respect and value all the new clothing/footwear/bags/supplies necessary for school. Discuss responsibility and consequences should items be lost/forgotten.

 

Attend the school’s Open Day:
Most schools have an Open Day before school officially begins, particularly for first graders. Make sure you attend. If possible, invite other family members to accompany you. Make the day extra special for your child. Ask a member of staff to take you on a tour of the school premises. Request to be introduced to your child’s teacher. Mingle with other parents and encourage your child to go and play with other children. Exchange phone numbers so you can arrange play dates.

 

Meet the teacher/teachers:
If for whatever reason you were unable to meet with your child’s teacher/teachers at the Open Day, don’t hesitate to ask the school for an appointment to meet with them. One of your child’s major anxieties might be: ‘Will I like my teacher?/Will my teacher like me?’, so arranging to meet with the teacher beforehand is prudent. Some teachers offer ‘Welcome letters’ to their pupils, if this is the case with your child, be sure to read the letter together.

 

Arrange play dates:
If possible, try to get together with some of your child’s classmates before school begins. If you are new to the school, this may not be feasible, but if your child is returning to the same school such play dates can easily be arranged. Maybe a few parents/guardians could get together to arrange a ‘back-to-school’ party. Nothing builds confidence in your child as much as seeing familiar faces. Throughout the school year try to maintain play dates, especially if your child’s school is not in your immediate neighbourhood. Social acceptance is especially important in your child’s development.


Provide reassurance:
Last but most definitely not least, your reassurance is paramount in your child’s successful school experience. If you have the September blues, in all likelihood, your child will imitate you. If you are anxious you will create anxiety in your child. If you have a negative outlook on life, your child may well follow in your footsteps. Turn it all around! Encourage your child, praise your child’s teachers, teach your child to be proud of their school and most importantly, to quote Peter Drucker, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”. If you notice any change whatsoever in your child’s behaviour, talk, talk, talk with them. If they are unwilling to talk to you, don’t hesitate to contact their teacher or seek other professional help if necessary. Your child’s schooldays should be the best days of their life!


To sum up, August may be gone for this year, but don’t forget, it’s entirely up to you to make autumn awesome! Hold on to the sunshine and you can have your very own summer all year long. •

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