The bell will be ringing once again in just a few weeks with the starting Sept. 6 -- but don't panic. We've gathered some tips from Eastside teachers and tutors on what parents can do in the remaining weeks of summer and the first days of school to help kids succeed this coming year.
Preparing for a successful start at preschool or kindergarten
Judy Holt, director of Redmond’s highly-regarded Community Preschool, has more than 20 years of experience helping students prepare for their first days of school at both her preschool and her “graduates” for kindergarten.
Holt said parents should discuss any concerns their children have about the coming school year prior to the first day. Assure the child that school is a fun place where there will be lots of things to do and new friends to play with, she said. If the school’s playground is open to the public, take your child there to play. Practice basic skills such as taking on and off coats as zippers and buttons can be a challenge at first for little kids.
If your child will be eating lunch at school, make sure he or she can open water bottles and food containers and have him or her practice unpacking a lunch box, Holt said. Review some basic skills for an incoming kindergartner such as colors, numbers and letters. If you can find out which kids will be in your child’s class, make some play dates before school starts. Attend any “meet and greets” this month that will give your child and you a chance to connect with his or her teacher and see the classroom.
If your child is anxious about taking a bus to school for the first time, Holt advises parents to ease into the process.
“Remember, mom or dad can wait at the bus stop with the child, then drive behind the bus the first day and meet the child at school," she said.
Address any lingering challenges
Dave Zook, director of a Bellevue tutoring service called Big Brains Education Enrichment, says now is the time, before school starts, to connect with a tutor and bring struggling students up to speed.
“If kids do work over the summer, tutors are able to completely focus on shoring up basics and foundational skills, which always pays the biggest dividends long term," he said.
Parents of elementary-age kids can also review math skills at home and should constantly stress reading, Zook said.
Zook also encourages parents to talk about expectations for their child now, before the school year starts, and to remember to be a supportive partner in their child’s education throughout the year.
“Be consistent. If you value education for your child, then you have to make sure that they do what is necessary," he said. "There are no excuses for frequently not completing assignments and not doing extra-credit when offered."
Don’t assume you can “let go” in junior high
Karen Todd is a retired Lake Washington District schoolteacher who taught for both the Quest program and general education classes at in Kirkland. She says it's important for parents of junior high students to remember who's boss and not back off from their children's education.
Todd said parents should take notice of pre-function event dates on the school’s website and make sure their students attends them. You should also be monitoring your child's computer and cell phone activity now and throughout the school year, she said.
“Lots of stuff starts happening in junior high and you need to let your kid know you are monitoring him or her,” Todd said.
Todd also suggests having students write a letter to themselves about the first day of junior high school—what they are wearing, what they are worried about and what they hope for, that you’ll keep for them and promise not to read, as a treasured memory for them to have in the future.
Teachers as partners
Rona Chumbook, a recently retired Lake Washington world languages teacher with more than 20 years of experience teaching, reminds parents that teachers in junior high and high school want to know about their students. She encourages parents to send teachers a brief email before school starts about any specific challenges your child has in terms of learning, hearing or vision or new situations that have arisen over the summer that may be stressing him or her and impact his or her academic performance, such as a including a parent’s job loss or divorce.
Be mindful of how much teacher’s jobs have changed since you were in junior high and high school, Chumbook said, and be respectful of their time. Communicate important information with teachers in short and concise emails. Offer to help with supplies as needed.
“Teachers appreciate hand sanitizer, tissues, etcetera, for their classrooms that are no longer supplied, but ask what they need,” she said. “Parents should view their child’s teacher as a team member and make an appointment early in the school year if the child has ongoing challenges that need to be addressed.”