Knox principals give back-to-school tips

Published 10:00 am Friday, August 14, 2015

By Dr. Latoya Dixon

and Dr. Michael Waiksnis

Knox Middle School co-principals

The end of summer brings competing emotions to the surface for everyone involved. Some students look forward to the start of the school year, while others wish they had just a couple more weeks.

Parents and guardians often look forward to the return of the structure of the school year. Teachers eagerly await their new students and the opportunity to use all that they learned over the summer in various professional developments, collaboration sessions and Internet searching (teachers really do work just about all summer).

Anxiety is usually part of this process, as well, for students and parents. We would like to offer the following tips for creating the best opportunity for a successful school year.

• Your child must know how much you value education

If they do not feel you value the importance of education, it will be much easier for them to dismiss its importance. Stress to them the importance of education and then show them how much you care.

This is not just a back-to-school thing; it is an all the time thing. Children are very perceptive and they can pick up on how you perceive things.

Make sure they know how important their success in school is to you. Remind your child that schoolwork is serious and requires perseverance. Remind students that learning success requires repeated effort.

• Teach your child about resilience and grit

Most adults know hard work and effort greatly increases the chances for success. We know that most people who are considered successful spend hours working to get better and are dedicated to success. This is the same for success in school.

We try to make sure our students know that hard work often equals success. This is true for all students.

Even if your child has been very successful in school up until now, at some point they will struggle. When they face their first academic struggle they will need resilience and grit to keep pushing forward. We suggest that you talk to your child about not giving up in the face of adversity and how the most successful people do not give up when something is hard or when they fail at first.


Every student should read for at least 20 minutes every night at home. This is the minimum amount of time a student should read for pleasure each night.

Students often have little choice of what they read in school and they need the opportunity to read for pleasure at home. This is crucial for all children regardless of grade level.

We suggest setting up a routine that will encourage your child to read every night. You might wonder how in the world you can cram something else in on a busy weeknight. We hope that you find a way – your child needs to be reading each and every night. He or she is falling behind if this is not happening. It is that important.

• Talk to your child about school every day

We know this is so much easier said than done. We have all received the standard “Nothing” answer when we ask kids what they learned in school that day, but we can assure you this is not true.

They may have short responses, but just make sure you continue to ask for details and ask questions. We suggest using more probing questions. You might try asking about one thing that they had a question about from that day, one thing that they learned that surprised them that day or one thing that made them happy that day.

Be sure to ask them about their grades, as well. Questions like, “What do you expect your grade to be on that test?” or “How are your grades in social studies?” send students a message that their grade is important to you as well as their teachers.

There are not any magic questions, but the point is to talk about school. Again, you are reinforcing how important it is to you.

• Stay “in their business”

As your child gets older they become more and more impressionable and apt to follow the crowd. Your child’s social circle is critical to their development. We have seen the development of friend groups lead to positive growth for some children, as well as situations where kids who have never been in trouble change based on their friends.

Peer pressure is very difficult for children to overcome. We suggest you know who your child’s friends are and make sure your child knows that you know. We suggest being a nosy parent. Stay as tuned in as possible when it comes to your child’s friends. If you are not happy with their choice of friends, step in.

• Encourage your child

Children need to know people care about and believe in them. If they feel nobody cares, it is easy for them not to care themselves. Help build their confidence in everything they do. Support them as they grow into adulthood. Make sure they know they are important and have unlimited potential.

• Homework and study routine

Play to your child’s strengths. While some students work well in a quiet environment, others may work more diligently with soft music playing in the background. If your child has difficulty staying on task, break the homework down into chunks and provide a time limit. For example, you might set a timer for twenty to thirty minutes for your student to complete the first 5 questions on a science review. After the time is up, check with your child to see if the work is complete and help them make corrections if necessary.

• Communicate with the teacher(s)

Email, phone conferences or a face-to-face conference early in the school year is a great way to establish a partnership. Share with the teacher any tips or strategies for working with your child. Support the rules and procedures of the classroom by setting a clear and unified expectation for your student with your child’s teacher. Help your child be ready to learn by encouraging him or her to be on their best behavior each school day.

• Work with your child on developing methods to study

Help your child use their notes from class to develop flash cards, make a practice quiz or create an electronic quiz or flashcards with the key vocabulary and material. Call out the key definition and have your student tell you the key word or vice versa.

• Don’t forget to celebrate

Celebrate your child’s success in school. When your child sets a goal to obtain a certain grade or improve behavior and achieves that goal, collaborate with your child to determine a way to celebrate their accomplishment!. This helps build confidence and helps your child learn that success comes about from hard work and perseverance.