Sometimes it’s hard to think about in July, yet the signs are everywhere. Back-to-school sales in department stores, school busses in parking lots advertising for drivers, school newsletters in your inbox, and very soon, you can expect the 2013-14 edition of Ignite to appear in your mailbox. School supply lists are posted on our website, the school year calendar is available here, and the days are getting shorter.
While many employees of the Sioux Falls School District transition seamlessly from one school year to the next in order to keep the District running, we understand that for many parents and students, the first day of school, this year, August 19th, is fast approaching, and will undoubtedly be something of a shock – physically, emotionally, and mentally. Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten, the first day at middle school, or your last year of high school, below you will find some helpful tips for getting ready for the school year BEFORE the first day of school.
- Visit your school. Perhaps a junior or senior in high school is familiar enough with the building and teachers to feel confident moving from class to class throughout the day without a pre-first-day tour, but that doesn’t mean we don’t offer them. Most high schools have a day before the school year begins during which students can get parking passes, activity passes, student photos, class schedules and other information. Naturally, at every younger grade, school visit opportunities exist, too. Be on the lookout for emails and phone calls from your school announcing these opportunities or be proactive and call your school to ask about them. If we have the staff available, you won’t be turned away from a school visit! The official orientation days will give you an opportunity to meet your child’s teachers, practice opening their locker with them, and address any and all questions and concerns.
- Get into a school routine. It’s hard for a kid to go from staying up late watching cartoons one night to doing homework and going to bed early the next. It’s a lot easier to make the first day of school manageable if you’ve had some practice. A few weeks before school begins, it’s helpful to start getting into the mindset. Alter bedtimes and morning routines to match the school year. (Here are some tips from WebMD for how much sleep children require at different ages.) Practice getting everything for school ready the night before – backpacks, school clothes, library books that need to be returned, and so on. If your student will have homework this year, you can get into that routine with puzzles, reading books, word or math games before supper or bedtime. Speaking of homework…
- Create homework protocol. Your child’s homework may be different every day, but that doesn’t mean the time and place they DO their homework needs to be. Find a quiet, well-lit room, free from distractions where your child can do homework at a regular time each day. For some, this may be immediately after school, after supper, or right before bed. If your child requires a computer for his or her homework, make sure the computer is in a public place in the house and be prepared to focus their attention as needed. Resist the pleas for the obvious distractions of an iPod or cell phone and instead make the acquisition of these items (or the TV or computer) the reward for completed homework. Check in on them regularly and be prepared to help as you are able – but instead of giving them the answers, ask the question in a new way or have them consider how they could find out the answer. Take an interest in their work and they’ll find much more value in doing it. Here are some more tips on homework from the Department of Education.
- Find a safe path to school. Whether your child is walking, riding a bike, getting a ride from you, taking the bus or driving a car, there are plenty of factors to consider. A five-minute walk in August might be a different story in February. Construction, weather and traffic can always be a factor during the morning commute. Make sure your child knows where crosswalks are, knows what the speed limit is in school zones, wears a helmet while riding their bike, and is prepared for cars backing out of driveways in the morning. As parents, make sure you aren’t stopping in the middle of the street to drop off students in the morning or pulling over on the opposite side of the street and having your child sprint across between cars mid-block. Plan for a route after school too, and make sure your child knows what to do in a “stranger danger” situation. Practice the route before and after school as necessary so your child is comfortable with the routine.
- Use Infinite Campus. Most parents with children in the Sioux Falls School District already know about this one, but if you are new or have a child beginning for the first time, you’ll be getting login information for Infinite Campus. This powerful resource allows you to keep daily track of grades, assignments, attendance and behavior for your student(s). You can also set up automatic lunch account refills, check your balance, see fines your student owes (such as for library books), and check a “to-do” list for middle and high school students. By clicking on a student’s class, you can get contact information for teachers to begin discussions or set up meetings. In addition to asking your children about their days, going through their backpack with them, and participating in homework completion, Infinite Campus is a wonderful way to stay informed on education – it’s like a daily report card.
- Download the App. Currently, Infinite Campus has an app available for parents to use, which means you don’t even need a computer to check in. Even better, the Sioux Falls School District will soon be deploying an app of its own, which will INCLUDE Infinite Campus information… but will have much, MUCH more. School calendars (select the schools your children attend to see only the information you want to), get notifications (in addition to mass emails and phone calls, when enabled by you, the District can use the notifications on your phone to inform you of school closings, upcoming events and other important information), get news updates, sports scores, watch District videos, get directory information (with maps) for each school, leave comments and ideas for the District right from your phone, and perhaps the best of all, configure alerts to tell you when your student has a missing assignment, has fallen below a certain grade in a class, or hasn’t shown up for school yet. The app will be free and will be available in the coming weeks.
We’ve outlined many of these back to school tips before, and it is a lot of information. The most important thing is to be as prepared as possible. Change can be difficult, but with a little preparation and practice, the first day of school doesn’t need to be a chore. Let’s have a great year!