August 6, 2010

10 Quick Tips for Back to School Success, by Bryan Post

It’s time for another year of school to begin. No doubt both parents and children are feeling anxious. Parents are anxiously pulling out the last hairs on their heads wishing that bell would have rang last week, and children are anxiously pining away for every last minute of uninterrupted cartoons knowing surely the bell is going to ring soon!

The following are some quick tips comprised for both parents and teachers that will help kick the new school year off on a positive note.


1.Back to Bed. This one tip is probably one of the most important. Due to a summer of little structure most children’s natural sleep rhythms are out of sync. Begin at least a week ahead of time getting your child back into the school week sleep routine. By the time school finally starts they’ll be well rested and slipping back into a natural pattern.
2.High protein, Low Carbs. Research has finally revealed that a diet high in proteins (meats, eggs, cheese, nuts, etc.) and low in simple carbs (refined sugars, cereals, pop tarts, fruit drinks, etc.) can help improve a child’s ability to focus and learn more effectively. Summer is often a time of free grazing in the kitchen. Quickly start doing away with the summer stand by snacks, and replacing them with energy and power foods.
3.Decreasing Television. As important as the bedtime routine is the reduction of television. A national study revealed that on average children watch five hours of television a day. Imagine how much that increases during the summer. Television is overwhelming to the brain system of a child, leading to hyperactivity and defiance. Now is a great time to start cutting the television time in half and encouraging your child to pick up a book.
4.Familiarity with Environment. For some children this will be their first time at school, and for others this will be their first time in a new school. It can be very beneficial to take your child to the school and allow them to see it, walk down the halls, perhaps even meet their new teacher. This will create an opportunity for familiarity that will help your child feel more calm and safe when the first bell finally rings.
5.Talk to your Child. Take the days leading up to school to sit down and talk to your child about any fears he or she may be feeling with the new school year approaching. Going into a new grade can be quite intimidating. Let your child know that you will support him and love him no matter what, and you are sure that he will do his very best. Most of all, just listen to what his feelings may be as the big day approaches.

6.Verbalizing Expectations. A particularly powerful opening exercise with new students is asking them their expectations of you as the teacher. Write these down on the board. Following that inform them of your expectations for them. After discussion and agreement, write them in a place where the children can review them from time to time. When things aren’t going so good refer them back to their expectations of you, and yours of them. This will set a tone of openness and trust early in the formation of your new relationship.
7.Get a Heads Up on the Child with Special Needs. All teachers want to give each child a clean slate to start with during the new school year, however a slate absent of a child’s needs is not necessarily beneficial. If you have a child in your classroom that had problems last year, converse with the past teacher and ask her or him what worked with the child and what did not. Help this child begin their year on a positive note by sitting them on the front row, making them the new assistant, and being the lunch line leader (which is code for keeping him next to you!). Remember, you are not punishing the child, but rather creating an environment for success!
8.The Importance of Touch. The simple gesture of a handshake or a pat on the shoulder during a hello is enough to help an anxious child feel safe and secure in a new environment. Unfortunately the use of touch has become a lost ingredient in the relationship between teachers and students, yet we fail to realize for some children the touch they receive from you may be the only positive touch they’ve had all summer. Don’t be afraid to say hello, smile, and touch the child on the shoulder, or hold their hand for a moment longer than normal. This small interaction can go a long way in building trust and security.
9.Quiet Time. Because of the hectic and unstructured schedules of most children during the summer, when they arrive into your classroom they’ll be wound as tight as grandma’s clock. After each major transition time such as early morning playground time to first class, transition from one class to the next, or following lunch and recess, take three minutes to turn the lights off, play a classical song, and encourage the children to breathe and slowly calm down. Not only are such techniques proven effective for children with ADHD, they are effective for all children following a transition.
10.Be Patient with You. It is critically important to remember that even though you’ve been doing this for years, or perhaps maybe this is your first year, you too are going to be forming new relationships. This naturally causes some initial anxiety. Take some deep breaths before your students come into the classroom, and remind yourself that you are the best teacher they could possibly have. Be patient with yourself first, and this will allow you to be patient with your students when they need it the most.
Have a Great Year!

Bryan Post is an internationally recognized expert in the treatment of children with behavior problems. He has consulted with families and schools throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia

August 3, 2010