September is just around the corner: every store already has school supplies on the shelves. But why and how is the beginning of the school year so important?
Start as you mean to go on
Beginning the year on the right foot and establishing good work habits are some of the easiest ways to make sure the academic year begins and ends on a strong note. If a student begins the year eager and prepared, then not only will they cement an identification as a diligent pupil, their teacher will be able to see immediately if something changes. When a conscientious student suddenly stops handing in work, teachers notice. On the other hand, when a lackluster or uninvolved student who has recently begun to improve has a backslide? The teacher may not be as likely to get involved in tracking down the cause.
Catch problems early
A strong start to the school year means staying on top of … well, everything. Knowing who your child’s teachers are, how to contact them, what the processes and procedures are for missed work or absences, testing and retake policies. While this might seem daunting, there are strong benefits to the student and family. If an issue arises, such as a conflict with a teacher, the difficulty of a course, or the need for an accommodation, setting it to rights early is far easier than trying to unravel the tangle later in the year.
Don’t get left behind
No one likes playing catch up, and particularly in classes that involve progressive knowledge, where each skill builds on the previous, trying to make up missed content can be extraordinarily difficult for even the most dedicated students. Teachers, particularly at the high school level, often use the beginning of the year to get to know their students, with simpler activities designed to check for prior knowledge. Missing out on these assignments may not only deprive the teacher of knowledge of your child’s learning level, it may also be a missed opportunity for an easy A+ in the gradebook!
This isn’t just a catchy buzzword or talking point. Growth mindset speaks to every student’s ability to grow and improve. In order to do the hard work of growing, students first need to show what they know. When a student starts the year with a solid B, it can be easy to rest on some laurels or sit back and relax. However, with a positive, improvement-oriented mindset, that B-student can take their early success and parley it into a B+ or an A. None of that would be possible if a child merely shows up and gives lip service to the beginning of the year.
Put the same energy in making school fun that you did making summer fun
This point may seem counterintuitive. We’re not advocating that students should flip a switch and seamlessly transition from summer vacations to non-stop studying. That’s just not possible: students are children, not machines. Instead, we suggest finding ways to build fun into academic plans: small rewards, acknowledgements of progress and success, downtime with friends, pleasurable hobbies. By planning to make the school year painless, from the very beginning, the adjustment from summer to back-to-school can set your student up for year-long achievement and mental well-being.