The SMART Start – Planning for a Successful School Year | By Hannah Rittner #teachmetuesday

September is a time for new beginnings. It is defined by its lovely weather and busy energy. The start of the school year gives September an inspiring reputation. For students and their families, September is a thrilling time. However, it can also be stressful. Thankfully, there are some very doable strategies to quell the stress. The most effective strategy you can do to set-up your child is to think ahead. The most influential people in your child’s life at school are their teachers. Depending on the level of your child, they may have one homeroom teacher or multiple teachers for different subjects. It is terrific that schools include parent teacher interviews in their curriculum, but this does not mean you have to save connecting with your child’s teachers until then. So much information can be gleaned from starting the process at the beginning of the year. For example, each teacher has specific interests. A great way of knowing what the teacher is interested in is by seeing what kind of materials they put on the walls: Is there a large amount of focus on science? visual art? or literature? Understanding the passions of your child’s teacher will inform the conversations you have with your child about their schoolwork. If you know the interests of the teacher ahead of time, you can introduce these elements into your conversations with your child as the school year progresses. Organization is also crucial to a good start.  A great way to set-up an organized year is to have a conversation with your child about their schedule and extra-curricular activities. This conversation should happen before the school year commences. It is important when setting up your child’s schedule that it is not too busy. Make sure there is a balance between academic enrichment, hobbies and free time. Free time is incredibly useful as it gives your child the chance to practice social skills in a less structured environment. During the set up conversation you can help them organize their binders and folders. A tutor can also assist your child with maintaining organization throughout the year, in the event that your schedule does not permit weekly checkins. They are a great way to continue the original set-up you do with your child before the school year starts, to make sure the organization and productivity are maintained. Another way to get your child inspired for the year is using SMART goals. SMART goals stand for specific, assignable, realistic, and time-based goals. These criteria are a great way to help your child plan their homework and extra-curricular activities. If you take a few minutes at the beginning of the school year to go through these, your child will learn how to prioritize their work and how to strategize its completion. A great way to help your children engage with the curriculum is if you engage with it too. The Ontario curriculum can be found online. If you search it, you will find guides that map out the goals of each grade. With private schools these outlines may vary; however, the Ontario curriculum is still a useful guide. When looking through the materials find ways to bring the content into lived experience. A unit on Ancient Egypt could be a great excuse to visit the ROM or a unit on space is a chance to explore the Science Center. Educational experiences are available at every turn, but if you look through your child’s curriculum, you will be empowered to use these opportunities more deliberately. Assistance is never far away. Always stay informed about the resources your school offers for extra help and after school activities. Many schools offer peer tutoring for children that need a bit of review, while others have in-kind support for specific subjects. Be in a dialogue with your children about their strengths and weaknesses. When you discover a place that needs support, you will then know how to take action because the conversations have been ongoing. If you find your child requires a structured routine, a tutor can step in to make a plan that suits the specific needs of your child. Ultimately, the key to starting a new year is working ahead. Lead by enthusiasm and curiosity. Don’t wait for answers, be inspired to search for them on your own, make it an adventure with your children. As parents, you have the power to demonstrate a playful and curious relationship to your child’s education. Unknowns will cease to be stressful, they will become opportunities to discover something new together. This curiosity will pay off with profound knowledge that will help your kid enjoy a fruitful and invigorating school year.
HANNAH RITTNER is a tutor at BookMark Tutors. Bookmark Tutors has been providing tutoring to many clients in Toronto and GTA area. Bookmarktutors.ca

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