DAVIS COUNTY — It takes more than a new pair of shoes and a couple of blank notebooks to prepare a child for the new school year.
While physical preparations are sure to be the focus of every child, it’s also important to prepare them emotionally for the new year.
It may be they didn’t get their favorite teacher or it may be their best friends are in the classroom down the hall.
Parents can do a few things to help with the transition, according to Susan Spehar, curriculum and instruction department supervisor for Davis School District.
“Talk to them about how your teacher loves you and cares about you and wants to teach you,” said Spehar.
“Learn something about the teacher’s area of expertise, help personalize the classroom for students,” she said.
Spehar taught in Davis schools for 26 years – including many years as a kindergarten teacher – and has two children who graduated from district schools.
“I have taught children who are not excited about a school year and what I found out was once I made that connection with them as a teacher, they were happy to come,” she said.
There are a number of books in a range of levels that help children overcome back-to-school nerves.
“First Day Jitters,” and “The Kissing Hand,” are perennial favorites for elementary students, she said.
“Chrysanthemum,” by Kevin Henkes, is a discussion starter on the topic of teasing, she said, and other subjects can be found by searching the American Library Association’s book list.
Reading is one of the things Marla Hustad, head of professional development in the district, recommended as well.
Hustad has also been an elementary school teacher and has three children who attended Davis schools.
There are three ways parents can help their children have a successful school year, according to Hustad.
The first, she said, is to set up a home learning environment. “It should be some place quiet where they have the tools that they need – some type of research tool like a computer or tablet, and maybe some homework helps,” she said. “It should be a home learning environment that would be respected for specifically that purpose.”
Her second suggestion is that parents talk with their children about a balanced schedule.
“Include the physical needs, such as the amount of time they have for breakfast in the morning to the daily requirements that a child may have such as chores, homework, after-school jobs or sports,” she said. “And make sure to leave time for fun.”
Teachers are taught to plan their lessons starting at the end – with what students should ultimately learn, she said.
“That’s good advice to life as well, and we need to teach students how to do that,” she said, by helping them see what they want to accomplish and determine how to fit it all in.
The third recommendation Hustad shared is for parents to help their children make plans for situations that may arise in the school year.
“How are you going to develop a relationship with the teacher? If you need support, how are you going to get it? If you need help, how are you going to ask for it?” are questions parents can help their children think through, she said.
“Some are shy or quiet and are not sure how to do it,” she said.
It happens to every child at some point in their life, when a teacher or the makeup of a class is a disappointment, said Hustad.
“It’s a life strategy for coping in situations that aren’t your first choice,” she said. “Looking for the positive, finding areas of their own character that they can build on and looking for help outside will help,.”
“This is temporary; if not a favorite teacher this year, it will be over in a year and they could have a favorite next year,” she added.
Parents can help their children focus on the positive rather than the negative parts and help them get through day to day with the right attitude.
Having a plan for success is implied as school begins, she said, but it can also be stated.
“I think it needs to be more direct and more discussed with the student,” she said.
Teachers have their own anxieties as the school year begins, said Spehar.
“They’re just wanting to be ready for your students,” she said. Many report nightmares from their worries as the year approaches.
“They want to be there and they want to be ready for their kids and they want to help them learn,” she said.
Students and teachers might start out nervous, but according to these experienced professionals, with a plan, with a goal and with a positive outlook, they can work together to make it a successful year.