Prepare yourselves, the school year is upon us. Like nearing the front of the queue for an intense roller coaster, you’re a mixture of excitement and nervousness.
However you and your little legends are feeling about the new school year, it is rapidly closing in. As a teacher, over the last twelve years, I've loved the start of the year, but I know not everyone - child, teen, and adult alike - may feel this way. Especially after making it through the Year of Voldemort, a.k.a the Year We Shall Not Name, a.k.a. The Year Pyjamas Were The Must Have Accessory.
Change is tricky at the best of times. During this pandemic, we’ve been more saturated with it than my two-year-old daughter trying to pour milk from a jug (that’s a whole other separate story unto itself).
But as we jump aboard the rollercoaster of change that will be 2021, here are four things I want every parent to know:
Thing #1: Giving your kids the power to name emotions can make a huge difference
There’s something powerful when kids can go beyond happy, sad, bad, or angry to describe feelings.
The start of a school year can be a big transition for any child - no matter how old. It can be overwhelming, so giving our kids the power to choose words that best suit how they are feeling at that point in time can help us help them.
While our kids might talk about feeling angry, what they really might be feeling is frustrated or lonely. This can lead to very different ways we might respond or help them navigate through that feeling at that time.
Susan David, an expert in emotional intelligence with a Ph.D. in psychology, has some great resources out there to help you and your kids go beyond these “umbrella” emotions.
For younger and primary-aged children, Kimochis is a brilliant resource. It not only helps kid's name how they’re feeling, but also gives them a visual way to explore them (and can be stuck casually on your fridge).
Thing #2: Tech doesn’t have to be overwhelming
There is a huge amount of choice when it comes to devices. All that choice can make us feel out of our depth. The features, updates, and latest ‘must haves’ can be overwhelming.
Having worked as an ICT Coordinator in school, when it comes to choosing tech for students, I consider things that might not sound sexy but make all the difference. I look for something that is easy to use (for kids and adults), has good support, is reliable, and has access to quality apps and software that allows learners to easily write/type, record and create throughout the year.
Of course, the price is also a big factor - especially with multiple kids. As an option, you might check out the Surface Laptop Go. It's got a competitive price point at $999, good storage and battery life, and is Microsoft’s lightest Surface laptop.
Watch: The Surface Laptop Go. Post continues after video.
With students having Microsoft Education accounts via their school, they’ll be able to use Microsoft Office 365, Minecraft, and other apps to support their learning. Consider your needs and check with your child’s school to find out if your child can get free access to these resources through a Microsoft Education account. (The Microsoft support pages are also simple and helpful as you and your kids get to know the device and apps).
Thing #3: Being involved in your kids’ learning doesn’t have to be harder than summiting Everest
We’re all busy. In all my years of teaching, some of the best advice I can give a parent who asks me, “How can I help my child more?”, is to tell them to keep taking an interest in their child and their learning.
You and your family have the biggest impact on your child. While you might not be able to attend all the events or get on-site, you can do little things, often, that add up to big things.
Ask what your child is reading and stop for five minutes to hear them read. Or, read some of their books aloud to them. If they’re not confident, try to ask them if they want to read one page or two, or one paragraph or two - or one sentence or two. Start small. It’s the time and connection and the fact you are interested in their world that matters.
Five minutes, five times a week, over a year adds up.
Thing #4: Communication makes all the difference
Schools are about partnerships. Good teachers know relationships are at the heart of learning. However, we can only work with what we know about a child and their family. As the person who knows your child best, don’t ever hesitate about asking a question, seeking some clarification, or sharing something happening in your child’s life.
Whether it is moving house, friendship issues occurring a little more often, or not understanding something in the school newsletter, it’s okay to reach out. We’re all in this together - and by this, I mean supporting your child.
With the start of the year here, there will be a bunch of things you’ll be wondering about. From lunches, tuckshop ordering, and fruit snacks, to uniforms, specialist classes, and curriculum newsletters (that inform you about the learning that’s happening). There can be a lot to discover and find out.
Start by subscribing to your school’s newsletter. Find out which app your child’s school uses to share student updates and invest the 5 minutes it takes to find it on the app store, download it, and create your account. It pays much bigger dividends throughout the year when you know what’s going on at school, the great things your child is up to, and can easily contact your child’s teachers.
Like all rollercoasters, if we know what to expect and get others on board with us, it can make it just that little bit easier.
Dan is an assistant principal, mentor teacher, dad of two, and is currently completing a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at Monash University.