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July 5, 2019

Local Teachers Share Top Habits for a Successful School Year

By Tara Payor, Ph.D.

School may be around the corner, but the humidity is still so thick we can cut through it like Key lime pie. What shouldn’t we cut? The practice of cultivating the habits of highly effective people in our children during the summer and habits for a successful school year.

Related: Calming the Chaos: Transitioning to School and Beyond

Stephen Covey authored the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The habits are: 1. Be proactive; 2. Begin with the end in mind; 3. Put first things first; 4. Think win-win; 5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood; 6. Synergize; and 7. Sharpen the saw. From elementary aged to adolescent students, parents are wise to support making these habits the norm for children.

Related: Ask the Doctor: Your Kids and Sleep. What Every Parent Needs to Know 

Three teachers share their wisdom about how parents can implement these habits before school opens without cutting out summer fun.

Wisdom from Autumn Witt

(Experience: Kindergarten, 8 years; 1st grade, 2 years)  

Mom to 17, 15, and 11-year-olds, Witt is familiar with the summer slide and intentional in preventing it. “I encourage reading for enjoyment, which includes articles, e-books, comic books and listening to chapter books.” She suggests setting up apps on smart devices and visiting bookstores as a family as ways to be proactive toward a successful academic year. Since beginning with the end in mind is key, Witt underscores creating buy-in and celebrating success: “No need for anything costly when rewarding summertime academic goals.” Championing putting first things first, she notes that parents can openly make play and socialization priorities over the summer. “Take the vacation, make memories, and climb trees. Sprinkle in daily reading where it fits,” she says. Regardless of an activity’s nature, parents can infuse academic language. “I teach kindergarteners phrases like, ‘I heard you say…’ and ‘I agree with you because…’” Focused conversations allow kids to repeat things back and respectfully respond. Experienced with kids of all ages, Witt nudges parents to help kids sharpen the saw by providing choice—something to try before August’s hustle resumes: “When kids have ownership and choice, they have greater interest and confidence.”

back to school tips from teachers
Autumn Witt and Family

Wisdom from Mailen Bond

(Experience: 1st grade, 15 years)

Mom to 8 and 5-year-olds, Bond encourages involving kids in life’s daily activities to prevent loss of literacy and math skills over the summer. “They can assist with writing grocery lists and adding items at the store. They get excited about learning and confident about their skills.” Bond supports a balanced approached to summer R & R—academics shouldn’t be last on the list. “Kids aren’t in busy mode their entire wake time. There’s always downtime for reading.” She sees additional home time during the summer as helpful for reinforcing a win-win attitude. “I point out that my husband and I disagree and approach problems differently. In classrooms and at home, we can discuss solutions that are simultaneously appropriate and different.” Bond wants families to sharpen the saw by going outside. “Show kids that we work hard and earn vacations. Enjoy walks, swims and water balloon tosses. We have state parks and beaches ideal for family time and fostering togetherness.”

back to school tips from teachers

Wisdom from Allison Schaer

(Experience: 4th grade, 14 years)

Mom to 9 and 7-year-old daughters, Schaer believes that if kids are idle for two months, we risk them losing foundational skills. “Balance is key,” she says. “A few minutes of daily reading is significant.” She suggests logging work, rewards, workbooks and routines to support a proactive approach throughout the summer and into the school year. Maintain balance by finding learning experiences within summer vacations. “Look for ways to make trips meaningful and educational in exciting ways.” Nurture putting first things first: “Set the example to get harder or less desirable activities done first.” What’s hard for one child might be easy for another, and Schaer knows parents can help kids grow a win-win habit by breaking the cycle of comparison early. “All kids have some genius and parents must nurture and praise them for it. Parents must be cheerleaders and model cheering on others.” This feeds synergy. Conversations throughout summer and beyond can help kids recognize that “people with different views and backgrounds can be parts of improved solutions.” Summer offers needed time for self-renewal, and Schaer suggests trying new things and volunteering. As a mother and educator, she believes summer is an opportune time to practice giving kids more space for growing into highly effective people. “Parents would be pleasantly surprised to see what kids can get through independently.”

back to school tips from teachers
Allison Schaer and Family
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