Each year at about this time teachers receive a “welcome back” letter from their administration informing them of the start of school, meetings they need to attend, etc.
This year, for the first time in many years, there will not be a letter for Mrs. Maurer. I’m surprisingly ambivalent about that. I suppose if I had been forced to retire or if I felt stronger physically I might be sad. But the feelings I have are more akin to relief and gratitude. I don’t have to teach. I don’t have to do things that would be strenuous and stressful. I can take the time I need to recover and recoup before I go on to the next phase of my life.
That being said, I do still have an interest in school, my former students, my former colleagues, and the parents who will be sending their children back to school. So I feel impelled this morning to offer everyone a few words of advice and encouragement.
First of all, have faith. If you seek God’s guidance, if you strive to do your best each day, if you pray about your problems, I promise you will have a better year.
Be patient. The beginning of school is never what everyone expects. There are glitches in schedules and procedures. There are moments of tension. There is miscommunication. There are unforeseen problems when random personalities and behaviors are put together in the same room. Wait a few weeks before you worry, or complain too loudly.
Look at the “big picture”. It has been my experience that everyone connected to education wants what is best for the students. Of course when you put any two people together you are bound to get disagreements about what is “best”. Parents, keep in mind that no matter what happens this is ONE year in the twelve to eighteen that your child will attend and ONE year in a lifetime of years. Be optimistic about the progress that can be made, and keep it in perspective. Teachers, you can make a difference this year, but you can’t solve every problem, so choose your goals wisely.
Stay positive. It’s easy to get caught up in solving one particular problem and become discouraged about school in general. My grandmother’s tried and true advice applies here: “This too shall pass.” This is especially directed at parents. Even if you don’t solve your child’s educational challenges this year, you CAN make progress. Every child grows and changes and learns at their own pace. Don’t despair if your child’s development seems to be different from the rest of the class.
Concentrate on the basics. There are really only two factors that will have a major impact on a student’s future education and employment. Those are reading and behavior. Stop and think about that. Even if your child has a gift for sports or music or art, their behavior- discipline, practice, motivation, etc.- will determine their success. Any course of college study will require reading. Technology, vo-tech, agriculture: labels, instructions, reading. We can’t seem to get away from reading and understanding words. I’m not saying we need to ignore math or science, but don’t let reading or behavior problems continue any longer than necessary. If your child requires tutoring or counseling or intervention, do it now.
Stay healthy. Get enough sleep and stop eating junk, especially for breakfast. Lack of sleep has an impact on everything we do. School is a mental challenge and alertness is a major tool for meeting that challenge. Studies have also shown that eating a healthy breakfast affects memory and concentration. According to the Food Research and Action Center, “Children who eat a complete breakfast, versus a partial one, make fewer mistakes and work faster in math and number checking tests.” A complete breakfast includes carbohydrates and protein. Eating doughnuts for breakfast not only robs your child’s brain of necessary fuel for the day, but develops a bad habit.
Get along. Everyone is in this boat for the year. You and your child will be involved in new relationships and most of those will not be of your own choosing. Determine now to play nicely and get along with everyone. That may mean “agreeing to disagree”. It may mean keeping some of your opinions to yourself. It may require you to smile when you don’t really feel like smiling. I’m not saying you have to compromise important values or lie to anyone. But you know what your mama told you…if you can’t say something nice…
So…I wish you luck. I pray for peace and progress. I hope for happiness.
Welcome back to school!