Social Media is buzzing with posts from teachers and school counselors starting the new school year. I delight in reading about their excitement and energy as they ready their classrooms and prepare to welcome students. At Social Bridges, we recognize the importance of educating the whole child. We acknowledge and appreciate the teachers, specialists and administrators who go far beyond academics in teaching our children.
For some students, the beginning of the school year can include not only excitement of seeing friends but some big feelings about the end of summer, returning to more structure and uncertainty about the demands of the new school year. Students entering a new school – either moving up to kindergarten, middle or high school or being new to the community, can juggle additional concerns – from finding their way around campus to being liked/accepted by peers.
Teachers Are Bucket Fillers
At Social Bridges we talk about the importance of being a bucket filler, supporting others through kind, supportive words and actions. (Based on the series of favorite children’s books such as Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud) Teachers fill our buckets; helping their students in their transition back to a learning environment – not only shaping minds but supporting children by:
- Helping students to connect with one another and form community
- Creating a positive school culture
- Modeling empathy, flexibility and inclusion for their students, helping everyone to feel welcome
- Encouraging use of pro-social skills that their students will need throughout their lives
Fill A Teacher’s Bucket
Teachers appreciate having their buckets filled as well. Parents can show gratitude to teachers in the following ways:
- Reading and following up on the parents communication (Newsletter, Class DoJo, etc. )
- Working on independence skills with your child in an age-appropriate way, reinforce your child bringing home the books and materials needed for home work and putting everything they need in their back pack for the next day.
- As developmentally appropriate, working with your child on self- advocacy to ask their teachers questions or express concerns in a respectful way.
- If your child struggles with focus and siting still, providing opportunities for movement before school and doing homework. Examples include; Swinging, riding a bike, doing wall pushups, jumping on a trampoline.
- If your child is learning ways to regulate their feelings at schools (mindfulness, breathing etc.) practicing calming techniques at home during quiet times so that your child feels comfortable with their tools when they need them.
- If your younger child has challenges leaving mom or dad after a summer of togetherness, practicing going different ways for periods of time before school starts.
- Work on resuming a school year structure in advance, including an earlier bed time routine and getting up, fed and dressed. Younger children may respond to a game of Beat the Clock, where you move bedtime and wake up earlier each day and compete with themselves to get dressed, eat breakfast and have teeth brushed before the timer sounds.
- Teens may struggle with giving up late night videogames and social media. Getting in the groove before the first day of school can result in happier students who are learning ready and thus happier parents and teachers.
If your child is stressing out about going to school, talk through what their day will look like and help them to come up with a plan by asking questions such as:
- Who can you eat lunch with? What would it sound like to ask if you can sit with someone?
- What can you talk about with the other kids? What can you share about your summer?
- For new students – how can you introduce yourself? What do you want to share about yourself?
Some ideas for books to kindle discussion about going back to school include:
- The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (3:36) (Separating from loved ones)
- First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg (3:50) (Big feelings)
- Schools First Day of School by Adam Rex (6:04) (Perspective taking)
Remember that your child’s teachers are also acclimating to a new school year. As you notice how your child’s teacher supports them and helps them to feel valued, let the teacher know you are grateful for their efforts – send an email, write a thank you note, attach a post it of gratitude to your child’s homework. Have you filled a bucket today?
Written by Carol Miller, LCSW
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash