Make going back to school a fun experience

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, August 5, 2015

School days are just around the corner, summer days are winding down and school buses will soon be seen shuttling students off to new learning adventures.

The first day, and even first few weeks, of the new school year can be scary for children. The anxiety from new teachers, new classmates and, maybe, a new school is a lot for a child to process.

“Students often become anxious when they don’t know what to expect next,” said Ashley Michel, a fourth grade teacher at Ethel Schoeffner Elementary in Destrehan. “The first few days of school are spent teaching students and parents the routines that will take place for the rest of the school year, as well as appropriate ways to find out more information.”

She said parents should plan to attend back-to-school events hosted by the school, as well as look out for teacher welcome letters, weekly parent information sheets, etc.

“These will be valuable opportunities to address (parents’) questions and concerns,” Michel said. “When the parents are familiar and confident with their child’s school day experience, the student is much more likely to feel the same.”

Tiffany St. Germain, a third grade teacher at Paulina Elementary, said her job on the first day of each school year is to welcome the new students into her school family for the year.

“My main goal as a teacher is to make the students feel that they are important, and that without them our class family wouldn’t be complete,” she said. “If students feel that they belong, then they will soar academically.”

Incorporate a few fun activities — that could even turn into family traditions — to add some excitement to the Back to School buildup. Parents can help ease any first-day-of-school fears by trying some new fun activities this month.

1. Celebrate School Year’s Eve: Build up anticipation about the first day of school with a New Year’s Eve-style celebration the night before. Throw up some quick and easy decorations (like balloons and streamers) to make it seem like a real party and toast to the new friends and adventures to come.

2. Host a back-to-school fashion show: Let your children show off their new school outfits, shoes and accessories with a family back-to-school fashion show. Set up a runway in the living room and let each of the children take turns strutting their stuff on the catwalk. It’s a great way to make sure everything you bought fits each child correctly, and the show gives you a great photo opportunity!

3. Create a back-to-school binder: Let your children get involved in decorating a special binder that can hold their school memories (like art projects and report cards) throughout the year. You’ll give yourself a pat on the back later in the year for getting this done in August.

4. First Day of School Fairy: If your children love the Tooth Fairy, they are sure to love the First Day of School Fairy. Leave the windows unlocked for her, and she will drop off fun school supplies and a note of encouragement for the first day of school. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to incorporate a little whimsy to the occasion.

5. Hidden notes: A super quick and easy idea that will bring a smile to your child’s face is to tuck an encouraging note into their lunchbox or book bag. The sweet, unexpected measure of assurance is sure to calm some nerves.

6. The Magic School Bus: A visit from “The Magic School Bus” is a great way to get younger students excited about a new school year. Imagine your child’s surprise when they answer a knock on the door to find a bag full of school goodies or a new pair of shoes for school left on the doorstep.

7.  School supply scavenger hunt: A back-to-school scavenger hunt in search of new school supplies can add a sense to adventure to the ho-hum chore of purchasing the supplies.

8. Jitter Juice: Elizabeth Alexander, a first grade teacher at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary, said she serves up “jitter juice” to her students on the first day of school to help them all drink their jitters away, as well as reads the book “First Day Jitters.” Parents can do the same at breakfast. An easy way to create a “jitter juice” you know your child will love is to use food coloring to dye a cup of their favorite juice a new, unexpected color.

9. A celebratory breakfast: Make the first meal of the day as special as it is important by putting candles (one for each grade level) in a breakfast food and singing “Happy Back to School” to the tune of “Happy Birthday.”

10. Boo Hoo Breakfast: Most back-to-school traditions are for the children, but here’s a tradition that is perfect for the mamas. The first day of school can be just as hard and emotional for mom as it is for her children, and a “Boo Hoo Breakfast” is the perfect way to gather a group of mom friends for a breakfast after the school drop-off.