It is a week of excitement and trepidation. And, in some local schools, it is a week of uncertainty.
Students are returning to class this week, harboring the hopes and fears that come with a new school year. At least, we hope they are returning. Teachers in the Camas School District were on strike Monday, which was slated to be the first day of classes; and contract negotiations are ongoing in the Evergreen and Battle Ground districts, which could delay the schedule.
Soon, however, students will be in class throughout the county, and that reminds us of the importance of the first days and weeks of the school year. Establishing good habits for a school-day routine and for studying can pay dividends that result in academic success.
Among the recommendations provided by experts:
- Set aside time and a good workspace for homework — both during weeknights and weekends. Parents should stress the importance of homework from the start, helping to enforce productive habits that will carry throughout the school year.
- Provide assistance with homework, but avoid being overly involved. Students learn by trying — and sometimes struggling. As one online tip puts it, “Remember that homework is a contract between the teacher and the student, not between the teacher and the parent.”
- Communicate with teachers, focusing on expectations rather than seizing an opportunity to lodge complaints.
- If your student has a cellphone, avoid contacting them during the school day, and stress that a classroom is not the place to be using their phone. As a commentary from a teacher in The Columbian explained last year: “The phones ring, buzz, vibrate and flash, constantly luring students away from their physical academic setting into a virtual loop of TikTok videos, Snapchat messages and barrages of targeted advertisements for food delivery and teen fashion.”
- Set a bedtime and stick to it to ensure proper rest. This applies to both students and parents.
- Develop a morning routine that leaves time for an adequate breakfast and avoids a hectic rush that gets the day off to a stressful start.
- And whether or not you have school-aged children — remember to be cautious when driving near schools.
While academic achievement is the primary focus of a new school year, parents also should pay attention to their student’s emotional well-being and how they interact with others.
Teachers at all levels of education have reported an increase in behavioral disruptions since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of the 2021-22 school year, 87 percent of public schools reported that the pandemic had negatively impacted student socio-emotional development, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
That included reported increases in classroom disruptions, rowdiness outside of classrooms and acts of disrespect toward teachers and staff. Evidence suggests that those conditions have lingered since the survey was conducted, and they require strong parental oversight and strong guidance from school administrations.
With youngsters spending most of a year with limited outside contact, it is inevitable that social maturity would be somewhat stunted. But it is important that adults not allow a few students to disrupt the educational experience for all.
With hard work and diligence, the excitement of the first week can turn into a successful year for both students and teachers.