I have a very important announcement that will bring parents and children great joy: Our schools open next week!
I am so excited about what’s in store for our 54,000 public school students when they return to their classrooms on Aug. 19. From new hands-on learning opportunities to expanded computer science and arts offerings, this school year is shaping up to be awesome!
As we say goodbye to summer, I’d like to share a few tips to help ease families back into a school routine and give students the best chance for success in the classroom.
The first few weeks of school are all about getting organized, especially for middle and high school students who are taking several different classes a day. These students are juggling homework plus other responsibilities, so I recommend academic planners.
Not sure if your child has a planner? Ask them! If they don’t have one? Some schools provide them for students, and stores are full of planners you can buy this time of year. Once you have the planner, go through it with your child to see what will be useful.
As the year goes on, ask your child on a regular basis about any big assignments that are coming up and what they are doing to get them done. They need to know that you care about their schoolwork, and just checking in can be a big help.
Set reasonable bedtimes
We see our share of sleepy kids during the first few weeks of school. If you haven’t already, start settling your child into bed a little earlier. If getting up on time for school is hard for your child, you’ll be glad you started now. Even teenagers who sometimes resist having bedtimes, need a lot of sleep.
Pay special attention to teens
Teenagers have been going to school for years and while you may think they have the routine down, families still play a key role in their teen’s success. As with young children, set limits at bedtime.
Most teens need at least eight hours of sleep to have a good day at school. If winding down at the end of the day is tough for your teen, try to hold on to your child’s cell phones and video game controls—and even unplug the TV at bedtime—to reduce distractions. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries, especially with teens, and try unplugging before bed yourself. Every child needs strong role models.
Reboot your grocery list
Summer fun can sometimes lead to a lot of salty or sweet (and unhealthy) snacks. Now is the time to toss the potato chips and stock up on nutritious foods. Make a fresh start by loading up on fresh fruits and vegetables (which are sometimes cheaper than processed food) next time you go grocery shopping. For families on extremely tight budgets, the San Francisco Food Bank can be a good resource. Once students are back in school, they can eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and sometimes even dinner provided by the district’s Student Nutrition Services. Remember to sign them up for school meals in the first weeks of school.
Once school has begun, start asking open-ended questions like, “What was your favorite part of your day today?” (and remember, ‘‘recess’ or even ‘going home’ are perfectly fine answers). Let your child talk about what they like and don’t like about school, no matter what it is. You can try to help solve problems together after listening for a while.
Remember, you play an essential role in your child’s education
When you help your children arrive to school on time and ready to learn, you are setting them up for success. Let’s have a great year!
Also, a reminder to everyone — please slow down when you drive near our schools.
Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of schools for the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.