Back To School

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Transition Tips From a Teacher

For teachers, parents and students alike those three words, back to school, can either be exciting or anxiety producing.  There’s so much to do to get ready and such pressure to make the beginning of the year go smoothly.  The following tips are meant to help ease the transition from the perspective of a teacher with over a decade of Septembers under her belt and a mama with just as many first day pictures taken. 

Tip 1:  Label EVERYTHING

Start early and stay organized. Label, label, label.  I can’t stress this enough.  If you saw my living room starting in August, you might think I robbed a Target.  There are bags of school supplies all over the place!   My children and I each get our own bins to hold our supplies as I buy them, and as they go in the bin, they get a label.

Let’s face it, school supply lists can be extensive and very specific.  However, these items are necessary for your student’s success (in the eyes of the school district).  Often times, depending on the district, teachers need to keep check lists of which student has brought in what supply.  On that first day when you don’t even know the students’ names yet and 32 first graders are shoving tissue boxes in your face, it is so hard to keep track.  So, please label things!  It will be so helpful in the long run.  Also, labels will help teachers and schools when kids lose their belongings.  Buy labels for things you expect to be returned (water bottles, mittens, backpacks) and use sharpie for things you don’t (tissues, glue).  Two great brands for labels are Mabels Labels and Name Bubbles.  

Tip 2:  Don’t Wait!  Start the Transition Now!

If you wait until the day before school starts to make your kid go to bed early, wake up early etc. then it will be a shocking change in September.  Instead, slowly but surely start doing the things you do over the school year.  I start in mid August and every three or four days I lower their bed time.  During the school year my kids are up much earlier than they are in the summer, so as a result they have to go to bed earlier.  Instead of making the harsh change, I slowly set their bedtimes earlier and wake them up earlier.  Then on those first days of school, they are used to it.  Do the same with other routines as well.  If you want them to do homework as soon as they come home from school, let them do some reading or quiet working in the afternoons now.  (Although, let’s face it, kids should be reading all year round anyway.)  If you had trouble in previous years with routine, this is the year to try something new!  Try a schedule printed out and pinned to the wall or a chore chart to get some expectations clarified for them!

Tip 3:  Relax!  Be Patient!

This is a hard one, but remember, everyone involved is in a brand new situation.  Give the teacher some breathing room to get acquainted with your child.  If you have something you feel the teacher needs to know right away, write them a hand written note.  Include the child’s name in the note, and yours.  Include your email or cell phone number in it.  This way, the teacher can read the note, know who it came from, and respond as necessary.  This is so much better than the face to face conversation at first because, let’s face it, there’s a lot to remember and the teacher, understandably, may not know your child well enough yet to properly process what your telling them. 

I know as a mom, I get nervous for my kids in September.  I want them to love the teacher.  I want them to have friends.  I want them to do well.  It makes me nervous.  But, I’ll never show it.  If I am nervous, my kids will be nervous too.  So grin and bear it mamas.  You may be nervous, but your kids are stronger than you know.  You’ve taught them well and they will be great and they will soar.  Even if they don’t have their best friend in class, or they have new glasses they are nervous about…it will be okay!  Breathe and relax!

Tip 4: Help if you can

September is such a crazy time in every household.  Imagine how busy your teacher is too!  As a teacher and a single mom with a kid who has a birthday on the first day of school almost every year, my September is insane.  I am usually as exhausted as the kids are!  The best thing that can happen to me in September is for an amazing mom (or dad) offer some help.  I’ve had moms ask me if there was anything else I needed for the classroom.  I’ve had others ask if they could come in and help.  Even if the teacher turns you down, it feels amazing on our end to know that we have someone in our corner.  Your time (even if it’s a tiny bit) is so much more valuable to a teacher than a trinket anyway, so feel free to skip the back to school gift and just say thanks!

Tip 5:  Make it special

We make holidays out of everything these days.  National Talk Like A Pirate Day and Margarita Day are things now so  why not make back to school a special day too?  Take the time to take a picture of your little one in front of the school.  Get one of those chalkboards that are floating around pinterest.  Write a little special note and stick in their backpack.  Put them in a new or fancy outfit.  A little glam makes everyone feel confident for their first day.  For a little one who is nervous, making it seem like a super special holiday just might make them excited and ease their nerves a little.  When my little one was super nervous, I bought a little stuffed animal, slept with it, and called it her brave buddy.  I told her that when it slept with me, it got my bravery and would help her be great at school.  I slipped it into the bottom of her backpack where it stayed on the first day.  Knowing it was there helped her immensely.  

When your kiddo come out on their first day, have a real conversation with her.  Ask your child how the day was with specific questions like, “Who did you sit next to?” or “tell me what your classroom looked like.”  Listen and respond specifically to what they are saying.  This will help them feel like their day in school was important to you and special.  If your student comes home with less than happy answers, talk them through it and see if you can problem solve together. 

Here’s hoping all our kids, and parents, and teachers have a great first few days of school and an easy transition from bathing suits to backpacks!

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Kristen is the proud mom of two wonderful, smart and sassy daughters (born in 2007 and 2011). Raising her kids as a single mom is a challenge and an adventure and she loves every minute of it. Kristen loves bringing up her girls in the same area of Westchester that she grew up in, having only moved a few miles from her childhood home. A long time passion for working with children led Kristen to pursue a career in education and she has been an elementary school teacher in the Bronx for over a decade. Her teaching career has taught her that every day is a new experience and to "expect the unexpected." If she can find any spare time between teaching and motherhood, Kristen likes to read, binge watch horrible romantic comedies on TV, bake, and go on road trips with her girls.