Helpful Hints for a New School Year
I have spent a fair bit of time over the last week talking to students about their holidays and how they feel about coming back to school. By and large the answers are consistent. Most girls would like a longer break, they are struggling with the routines of school, including the early mornings and they find the re-introduction of homework a little difficult to manage. In the case of the Year 7 girls, they are mostly feeling overwhelmed and they are in survival mode until they start to orientate themselves to the campus, the routines and the many people that they come into contact with every day. I have included a few suggestions that might help students and parents be a little better prepared for the year ahead.
- Have a Plan
The conversations I have had with students, parents and teachers have led me to think about how we can help students set themselves up more effectively for a successful school year. My reflections and a little reading have led me to the conclusion that it really is all about planning. A good plan might start with a simple conversation at home where parents and children sit around the table and talk about the year ahead with its many opportunities and challenges. Clear communication and a little planning are essential for an effective plan to work. This is particularly the case when it comes to scheduling homework and study, factoring in sport or other interests, making time for friends and including some family time. We can often forget that every week contains 168 hours which is more than enough time to fit everything in if we use time wisely.
- Time Management
Managing time, on face value, is a relatively simple science, however, we can tend to complicate it. We also battle the evils of procrastination, social media and Netflix which all offer attractive alternatives to school work. The trick is to keep time management strategies simple. A wall calendar can keep students on track for the entire school year if used properly. Placing the calendar in a prominent place, being creative with a little colour coding and being vigilant with checking it can be a really effective strategy. This is only one of many tools that can be used to manage time. The secret is to use it and this needs to be a family project.
- Set Realistic Expectations and Review them Regularly
It is ok to start small with planning and look to have little wins as success builds on success. Simply sticking to a timetable for homework or study, taking some time to preview upcoming homework or assessments and making sure that we organise enough time to manage these requirements can take immense stress off students. In the same way previewing material and due dates for assessments over the coming months will also make your children feel a little more in control and will remove the element of surprise when due dates come around.
- Add a Little Colour
If your children are already well organised they are well on their way to having a successful year and they should be sharing their tips with friends.However, if they need some help in this area, I recommend investing in a pack of coloured highlighters and a few Manilla folders. Colour coding really is the best way to keep homework folders, calendars and school notes organised. Even if there is a preference for note taking on a device, introducing colour helps identify important points, dates and priorities. As well as finding homework and study notes much easier to track, playing with colours helps us get started when effort is required.
- Get Comfortable with Lists
While many of us are not great list makers, lists are a sure fire way of identifying what needs to be done. The key to using lists however, is checking the list and updating it on a regular basis. Even for the most determined procrastinator, the satisfaction of ticking tasks off a list brings great satisfaction. The great advantage of lists is you can use them for anything and there is certainly a feel good factor about ticking off all tasks on your list.
- A Final Tip for Parents
Conversations about organisation and homework can be tricky areas for parents. For this reason it’s important to pick the right moment and, in a supportive way, jointly establish some guidelines and rules around school and school requirements. Written guidelines between students and parents set expectations and can clear up any potential confusion when it arises. Simple guidelines might include:
- Time homework is done and the night time deadline – yes sleep is more important than homework.
- What students need to do to keep their parents informed of due dates.
- Support (if any) students need and can expect from parents.
- Rewards students and parents can expect for meeting expectations – extra free time, access to TV or technology, small privileges etc.
I hope your re-entry into school life is smooth as you manage your children through the beginning of another school year.
Dr Frank Pitt
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