Preparation, Positivity and Practice.
University of Waikato’s Senior Lecturer Anthony Fisher is the Primary Programme Coordinator at Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education. He has been a teacher, a principal, and now teaches the next generation of teachers.
Mr Fisher says it is crucial for parents to talk to their children about what the new school routine will be. “Right down to the details of what time they’ll be getting up, when they’ll have breakfast and leave for school. If they are going to be walking, what is the route? What is happening after school? Is it come home, have a snack and go outside and play? When is a good space to factor in device free time as well? After the holidays, getting some normality and routine back in place helps all children.”
Parents’ attitudes can be one of the biggest factors in helping their children to adjust to the new school year. Mr Fisher says a positive attitude sometimes does not come through because of adults’ own past experiences at school. “The more actively positive you are about the new school year, and being organized for school the better. Often we underestimate how well children can adapt and it is us as adults that take longer to adapt to the changes and transitioning into new schools and classes. Parents need to have faith in their own parenting, and the skills they have taught their children that will help them adapt. If parents are anxious the child will be anxious, so it is about showing that positive attitude about school and leanring.”
What about new teachers? Mr Fisher says that is often where parents need to be careful, because they will have heard all sorts of things around the community about certain teachers. “But no matter what, they need to tell their child how good their teacher is, how great they are going to be, and what a great year they are going to have.” Once again it is about being positive and setting the child up for success.
For younger children, try to practice the first day. Mr Fisher says if they are walking to school, walk the route with them before school starts “If it’s a new school go and explore it. For older students, check they know exactly where they are going and when. For intermediate and secondary students that can actually be quite tricky.” Also who they will go with, friends, so that they are not arriving alone if possible.
In the first few weeks and ongoing, Mr Fisher says you need to keep talking to your child about school. “Not saying ‘did you have a good day’, as you’ll just get a nod. You really have to avoid general questions. Try something like asking what did you learn today, or what made you smile today? How would you rate your day and why? What went well, and what could have gone better? Who did you play with, or who are your new friends?”
One of the big things parents can do is keep their eyes and ears open. Mr Fisher says over the first few weeks check in on any changes in sleep patterns or eating habits. “Are they as happy as they usually are? Look for things that will indicate that school is not going as well as it could be. You do not want to over analyse it at that stage, you just need to be aware so you can keep a close eye on things. That’s why you ask those open questions, to keep the dialogue going, and elicit more information from them.”
A key aspect to help younger children is reading to them and encouraging older children to read. Fisher says it is one of the simplest strategies for parents to help their children’s learning. “ This is because so much of our education is dependent on literacy. So the more confident and comfortable they can get with reading the better it will be for them. Often you will get children saying they hate reading, so you have to make an effort to get a book in their hands. Find out what they are interested in. If its sport, is there a magazine they might like to read. A device counts as reading, because they are involved with text. The issue with devices tends to be with social media, which is another issue all together. It’s not the device as such; it is how it is being used.”