Tim Collins/ News staff
All kids are different and, by extension, no two young people will have the same experience when they return to school next week.
But according to Sidney Elementary School Principal Tom Vickers, some simple rules for back to school can smooth the way as young people make their way back to the halls of learning.
Establishing a routine is vitally important, said Vickers. The summer is a time when bedtimes are often relaxed and it’s important to realize that little people require at least 10 hours of sleep to function properly and that routine should be established and enforced.
“I have kids sent to my office for behaviour problems and they are literally falling asleep in their chair. Instead of punishing them, I’ve been known to send them for a nap and they come out feeling and behaving much better. The worst thing you can do is have a TV, computer, or other electronic device in the bedroom that can be accessed during the night,” said Vickers.
He said that what goes on in the home has a huge impact on how well a child will do in school and developing the habit of dedicating a short time to reading or doing some math at home every night will both help your child academically and prepare them for later years when they will have to do homework.
And as for those cute little kindergarten tykes, the secret is getting them used to being around the school.
“Take them to the playground at the school. Show them the building and explain what’s going to happen when school starts. It helps to create a comfort level,” said Vickers.
And if your kindergarten child bursts into tears at the thought of your leaving on the big day, trust that the teachers know what they’re doing and that your little one will be happy and laughing five minutes after you depart.
Naturally, by middle school the kids are old hands at the school experience, but those middle school years are times of enormous change and challenges.
“We keep a close eye on everyone. They come into middle school still getting a lot of guidance and leave here with beliefs and values more crystallized. It’s an exciting and challenging time,” said Wendy MacDonald, Principal of Bayside Middle School.
She said that Bayside will be hosting some workshops for parents to help them through what has been acknowledged as one of the most difficult periods of child development.
“They start to challenge parents and authority and they will make some mistakes and hopefully learn from those mistakes. But we try to teach them that relationships are important and we do that, in part, by treating students as though they have already become the people we hope they will be.”
MacDonald explained that electronic devices like cell phones have further complicated the process and have challenged teachers to ensure that students are concentrating more on personal interaction than they are on social media.
By high school, the young people going back to school are nearing adulthood with alarming speed, and the challenges of back to school are, once again, a bit different.
Gord Redlin, the Vice-Principal at Stelly’s Secondary School explained that relationships and involvement are key to making high school a positive experience.
“It’s important that they get involved in clubs, activities, sports … anything to be and feel connected. Friends you make in high school can be friends you keep for life.”
Ironically, some of the other advice Redlin offers his students is not unlike the advice offered to much younger students.
“It’s still important to have a routine with planned time for homework and study. Getting enough sleep and eating well are also important, and by high school our students are making a lot of those decisions on their own.”
Electronic devices and social media are also challenging for high school students and, at Stelly’s, the young people are taught the “front page rule”, namely “if you wouldn’t want what you post on social media to appear on the front page where your grandparents can read what you said, don’t do it”.
For those students who are first arriving at high school, Stelly’s has a program whereby the Grade 12 students welcome them to the school and, on the first day of class, prepare a pancake breakfast for the new students.
“These kids are awesome, and they remember how important it is to feel welcomed,” said Redlin.
In the end, however, there is one important message from all the educators at every school level. Spend time with your children, and take an interest. It’s the most important gift you’ll ever give them.