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Back to school

Educators give tips, advice for new year

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East Elementary

Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District Chief of Secondary Education Cassandra A. Hart says her advice to students who want to start the 2019-20 school year off right is the same she gave to her own children.

“Go to school each day with an open mind, a positive attitude, ready to learn,” she said. “Be prepared and on time for each class and follow the rules of the school and the classroom.”

After more than two months of summer vacation, Greenwood-area students recently headed back to class, and the first full week of school begins Monday.

This time of year can be exciting and stressful for both students and parents, and getting back into the routine of a school-year schedule can be difficult.

“Getting up a little earlier than normal to reduce morning stress can help students get back into a routine; getting a full night’s sleep is also crucial to student success,” said Jenni Hargett, who teaches senior English IV and honors English IV at Pillow Academy and is an English instructor at Mississippi Delta Community College.

Hargett also recommends that students eat a healthy meal before class begins.

“Breakfast is called the most important meal of the day for a reason,” she said. “Students who are overly tired or hungry are usually unable to focus on school.”

At the beginning of a new school year, Hart recommends that students set goals, whether it is to make the honor roll, play at least one sport or join the band.

“They need to manage their time and be sure to allow time for studying and sleep,” she said. “Students should try something new, and don't be afraid to make new friends. The most important of these is setting goals, because if they set goals and make plans to achieve them, then everything else will find its place.”

A goal many students set at the beginning of a new school year is to excel academically.

For elementary students, reading at home every day is recommended.

“Scholars should develop a habit of recreational reading for at least 20 minutes a day,” said Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District Chief of Elementary Education Iris Hurt. “This helps increase students’ stamina for reading longer, more complex texts.”

Developing a love for recreational reading can be very beneficial for elementary students “because literacy/reading is the backbone for academic success in all subjects,” Hurt said.

Shea Crowder, a second grade teacher at Pillow Academy, also suggests that elementary students read every day.

“Even if it’s what you read in class or not, it’s just increasing your vocabulary and comprehension,” she said. “Research has shown that 20 minutes a day can be very beneficial. We encourage them to read to somebody in their house. If you read with somebody at home every day, it also gets the parent and student spending time together.”

Educators say one of the best ways parents can help their children become high achievers academically is to be positive and encouraging.

“Children pick up on the messages parents send, so make those messages about their school year optimistic and hopeful,” said Hart. “We as parents can also establish supportive home routines as much as possible and avoid the urge to over involve the students in after-school activities. Last, but certainly not least, take care of yourself so that you can be there for them.”

Mischa McCray, a math teacher at Delta Streets Academy and a licensed professional counselor, said being a mix of an encourager and a disciplinarian is a good approach for parents who want to help their children succeed academically.

“Children need parents who celebrate their successes but are also able to push them if they start slacking off,” he said. “Parents can think of their job as similar to that of a coach: you want to learn how to manage your child to get the best performance out of them, and

this requires both praising them for their victories and coaching them up when they make a mistake.”

Hargett said that although it’s fine for parents to help children in lower elementary with their homework, older students should handle more of that responsibility.

“By junior high and high school, students should be keeping up with their own homework assignments and relying on their own study habits — even if that means they fail an assignment or two,” she said. “Hopefully, parents can help us teach students that it’s OK to fail sometimes. How else will students develop the grit necessary to succeed in today’s world?”

Some students don’t have a problem getting settled into a new school year, and McCray said those high-performing students “come in all types.”

“Some are organized and can tell you every due date for the entire year, while others might fly by the seat of their pants,” he said. “Some sit in the front and write down every word the teacher says, while others are back-row students who only take notes occasionally. But, the one thing that all high-performing students have in common is that they are engaged and they care about their education. They want to do well at school and are able to use the gifts that they have to do so.”

McCray said he thinks what keeps these students motivated to perform well in school is their belief in themselves.

“They believe that they have the ability to learn the material,” he said. “So even when they are challenged with a difficult unit or concept, they have this innate belief that they can master the material, and they continue to push themselves until they do so.”

For students who perform well at the beginning of the school year but later fall behind mid-semester, Hurt suggests several ways parents can keep students motivated.

“Celebrate small victories; reward appropriate behavior; provide interactive learning experiences; allow students to connect real-life experiences to their learning; and allow students to be part of their own goal setting process,” she said.

Being organized and keeping a routine at home are two ways to begin a successful school year.

“Often C and D students are A students who simply can’t stay organized or focused on their academic goals,” said Hargett.

Hart said organizational skills and home routines are “paramount to helping students achieve academic success.”

“Students appreciate and thrive on routines,” she said. “Routines provide a sense of comfort and security for the student and also helps them adapt to the rules and routines established at school.”

Setting goals, being organized and keeping a routine at home supports a student’s ability to prioritize his or her own academic activities, said Hurt.

“It causes them to think critically to ensure an order of importance,” she said. “High-performing, organized, routine-oriented students are capable of determining and completing assignments when they are due, meeting deadlines for the week and thinking through what comes as a result.”

Crowder said some of her most successful students have been very organized.

“It helps them keep up with assignments, they know where their notes are, and they are not wasting time searching for something. They are ready to go,” she said.

Although being organized and keeping a routine at home are two of the best ways to help ensure a student will have a successful school year, “so often we start the school year out organized and with a plan, only to lose it a couple months or weeks in,” McCray said.

“So, work on having a system that is simple at its core,” he said.

Crowder said students shouldn’t view this time of year as the “dreaded back to school.”

“Just be excited and get ready to have fun,” she said. “Your teachers are excited to see you. When we get our list, we start thinking about them, praying about them, and we’re just as excited as they are.”

• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7235 or rrobison@gwcommonwealth.com.

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