You may be well past those early school years by now, but remember the fear and trepidation when stepping off the bus for the first time, about to enter a school building? Wondering how you’d fit in with the crowd in middle or high school, or how tough the adjustment to college might be? We polled some area school system superintendents and college presidents, asking them for advice on how to best handle a new school environment. Some of that wisdom is geared towards students, while other tidbits are for parents.
Who better to start off with than Dr. Lorraine Lange, Superintendent of Roanoke County Public Schools? Lange was named Virginia’s Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents earlier this year and was a finalist for the National Superintendent of the Year award.
Lange, who taught kindergarten early in her career, believes youngsters may be better prepared now for their first day ever of school, since many more attend preschool. Still, says Lange, the following basic tips should help:
1. Talk to your child about going to kindergarten before the first day. Hopefully, you will have the opportunity to see the room and meet the teacher before the first day.
2. Talk a little about things that will happen during the day (nap, snacks, etc) and mention that you will be waiting to hear all about the day in the evening.
3. Make sure your child eats breakfast and has a good night’s sleep.
4. Let your child help pick out his or her clothes and make lunch along with you. There is more of a chance of children being happy, wearing comfortable clothes and eating lunch, if they had a say.
5. Let your child ride the bus to school so he or she starts the day with all the other students. Saying good-bye is hard, but prolonging that only makes it harder.
Lorraine Lange’s best piece of advice for parents? “Trust the kindergarten teacher, [they] are special. They have a strong love of young children and want their students to have a good day and be happy learners.”
Dr. Rita Bishop has helped turn Roanoke City public schools around since coming aboard as superintendent, driving towards a fully accredited school system, installing an overage academy at Forest Park for high schoolers struggling to graduate and instilling a new sense of pride in academic achievement. Her advice for those about to enter elementary school after a year of kindergarten is short and to-the-point, much like the no-nonsense person that Bishop can be.
1. Do your best
2. Be a leader
5. Make a friend today
“Listen to your teacher and tell [them] if you are worried,” says Bishop. “Learn something new everyday [and] smile.”
Dr. Charles Lackey, superintendent of public schools in Franklin County, wants to see students get engaged as they reach the middle school years. That’s a tough time for many preteens and young teens anyway, but Lackey says there are ways to make the transition to middle school easier. It also makes for a much smoother leap to high school a few years later.
1. Don’t be afraid to try something new (classes, clubs, friends, sports, subjects, [other] opportunities).
2. Actively pursue making new friends – it will be the first time in their life that students will be with a significant [number] of students from other schools that they don’t know.
3. Expect more out of yourself; take harder courses, involve yourself in something completely new to you, and don’t be afraid to make a mistake.
4. Get involved in some form of art (band, chorus, painting, computer art, pottery, etc.).