Transitioning from summer to school - tips to help your child succeed

Welcome to the 2015 -2016 School Year at Mitchell School!

We are excited to welcome our new students and their parents

to Mitchell School and we welcome back all returning students.

The start of Kindergarten is a big change for children and parents. And for those families returning, it's an opportunity to mark a the transition from summer to school. Transitions are exciting opportunities for children to learn and grow. Of course, such milestones in children's lives can cause anxiety, too! Strengthening the ties between school and home will help create smooth transitions for adults and children both.

Tips to help prepare your child for the first day of school:
❦ Be enthusiastic about the upcoming change. If you are excited and confident, your child will be too.
❦ Prepare yourself. Take note of how your child reacts to separation. Highlight the best parts of her Mitchell School experience thus far and talk about what your child is most excited about (riding the bus, certain elements of the classroom, the playground, lunch, a friendship, a special classroom project, etc.)
❦ Arrange a play date with another child from school, preferably one-on-one, so that your child will see a familiar face when he walks in.
❦ Start daily routines that will add to continuity. Let your child become involved with packing snack or laying out clothes.
❦ Put aside extra time, particularly on the first day, for chatting and commuting together. But remember not to prolong the good-bye. If your child whines or clings, staying will only make it harder.
❦ ALWAYS say good-bye to your child. Be firm, but friendly about separating. Never ridicule a child for crying. Instead, make supportive statements like, "it's hard to say good-bye but your teachers will take really good care of you plus I have total confidence in YOU."

Mitchell School Counseling Program

Many parents are surprised to learn that all schools in Kittery have at least one full-time school counselor.  Here at Mitchell School, Dana Rickerich is full-time; Emma Kilgore is part-time and will be at Mitchell on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Elementary school counselors are much more common today than they were when many parents were in school, leaving many parents wondering what the job entails.  
What do Elementary School Counselors do?
The goal of the Mitchell School Counseling program is to reach out to all students.  Through classroom lessons, small discussion groups, and individual counseling we’ll address numerous issues, including understanding of self and others, coping strategies, personal safety, peer relationships, effective social skills, communication, family issues, personal adjustment, and conflict resolution. This school year Dana will be working with the Kindergarten and Grade 2 students and Emma will be working with Grade 1 students. Both Dana and Emma will work with Grade 3 students.

Why are Elementary School Counselors necessary?
Elementary school is a time when students develop attitudes concerning school, self, peers, social groups, and family.  It is a time when students develop decision-making, communication and life skills.  Mitchell School’s counseling program is developmental and is based on prevention, as early identification and intervention of children's problems are essential.  If we wait until children are in middle or high school to begin to address these problems we lose the opportunity to help them achieve their full potential.

What Training do Elementary School Counselors have?
The state of Maine requires all School Counselors to have a Master’s degree in the counseling field.  This training prepares school counselors to effectively deal with the issues facing children in school as well as the difficulties that may face their parents and caregivers.  Dana earned a BA in English from Stanford University and then a MS in School Counseling from the University of Southern Maine.  Emma earned a BA in Psychology from the University of Maine Orono and then a MS in School Counseling from the University of Southern Maine.  

Please feel free to call either of us at 439-1707 or stop by our offices any time with any questions or concerns.  Also, PLEASE subscribe to our blog -- go to the right sidebar of this website, and below the student art section you will find a space to enter your email address and subscribe. We are here to help you and your child, and we are always happy to talk with parents about any and all concerns.  


Dana Rickerich and Emma Kilgore
School Counselors

Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in School

…and set the stage for school  success for years to come!

❦   Encourage reading in any way you can
There is no way to overestimate the importance of reading. It not only enhances learning in all of the other subject areas, it also exposes children to a wealth of information and experiences they might not otherwise enjoy. It stimulates the imagination, nourishes emotional growth, builds verbal skills, and influences analyzing and thinking. In fact, reading to or with your child every day is the single most important thing you can do.  Please make it part of your daily routine.

❦   Teach your children how to listen
Being able to focus on what other people are saying is an important element in learning. So, whenever possible, try to build your child's listening skills. Here are some strategies that will help:
✯ Read aloud to your child on a regular basis — even after she has learned to read by herself. Ask questions as you read, to make sure your child is understanding what she hears.
✯ Please…Limit television, computer, and video game time. While they're all entertaining, and can even be educational, they tend to promote tunnel vision. Make sure the time your child spends in front of a screen is balanced by MORE time spent with people, talking face to face, and/or being outside.  
✯ When you speak to your child, make eye contact and gently touch his shoulder or arm to secure his attention.
✯ When giving directions, ask your child to repeat back to you what she heard you say — to make sure she really did hear, and does understand what she needs to do.
✯ Model good listening behaviors. When your child wants to talk to you, for example, stop what you're doing and look at him while he's speaking. When he's finished, say something that indicates you heard him, even if you only repeat back what he said.
✯ Teach your child that even if an adult is saying something he finds boring, he still needs to listen, look at the person, and show respect.
✯ Spend time with your child doing quiet activities that encourage conversation, such as taking a walk together, taking a ride in the car, folding laundry, gardening, etc.

❦   Support your child's teacher and the school rules
Even if you don't agree with them!!
It doesn't do any child any good to hear her parents say that school is "a waste of time," that school rules are "dumb," or that what she's learning is "stupid" or "useless." Your child doesn't have a choice about going to school, so she might as well feel good about where she's spending her time. She'll be more motivated to work hard and succeed if she thinks you think that what she's doing is worthwhile.  Even if a school rule seems silly or unfair to you, or you think your child's teacher is dead wrong about something, don't make a big issue about it in front of your child. Instead, take your concerns straight to the source.  

❦   Communicate with the teacher and school counselor
Tell us what is happening at home that might affect how your child behaves in school. That includes positive changes (such as the birth of a baby, a move to a bigger and better house, or even a vacation to a special place), as well as negative ones (a separation or divorce, a death or illness in the family, a parent who has lost a job).

Children carry their baggage from home into the classroom. Even something little, like a fight with a sibling in the car on the way to school, can affect a child's behavior or performance at school.  If a teacher knows there's a problem or change at home, she's less likely to react inappropriately when behavior goes awry at school. Under normal circumstances, for instance, a dip in grades might prompt a teacher to suggest extra help or tutoring. If she knows that the child just got a new baby brother, however, she might react instead by pulling the child aside and inviting her to talk about how she's feeling now that she's a big sister.

You needn't go into all of the small details of what's happening at home, either. All the teacher expects to hear is, "I just wanted to let you know that we're moving to a new house next week, and Allan is pretty nervous about the whole thing" or "If Sheila seems a little hyper these days it's because her aunt is taking her on a special trip this weekend."

What else do teachers and the school counselor want to know?
✯ How your child feels about school: Is she unhappy? Does she think it's too hard? Is she complaining about it at home? Or does she like it? Is there some special activity that she really enjoyed? Does she talk about the things she learns in school? Most teachers would rather hear about problems sooner than later, so they can work on turning things around as quickly as possible. They — like the rest of us — also appreciate a kind or encouraging word now and then. So don't forget to mention the good stuff.
✯ How your child feels about school friends: Is she making any? Does she feel like a part of the class — or an outcast? Is she being teased or harassed? Is she too shy to make new friends? Does she need to branch out from her one best friend and get to know other kids? In elementary school, there is still a lot teachers can do to mold social relationships. But they need to know what the problem is before they can start to solve it.
✯ What your child's special passions are: Sometimes, a child who is a reluctant reader can be drawn to books that speak to a special interest, such as sports, or pirates, or ice skating, or animals. Or, a desire to write may be stimulated by an invitation to describe one of the subjects your child loves. Let the teacher know if there is something that really motivates your child, so she can capitalize on it in the classroom.
✯ What your child's special needs are: That includes anything from allergies to phobias, physical or medical conditions, learning problems or preferences, special talents, emotional concerns, and behavioral patterns. If you think an issue might come up in these or other areas, let the teacher know.

❦   Make sure your child is ready for school
All through elementary school, it's the parent's job to make sure a child:
✯ Gets to school on time — every day. Chronic lateness is not only disruptive to the entire class, it can make a child feel out-of-step all day. Plus, it sends a message that school is not important enough to be on time for. Good attendance correlates directly to school success and those habits begin in Kindergarten.
✯ Gets to bed at a reasonable hour. That means around 7:30 to 8 p.m. Children who regularly go to bed later on school nights have a hard time keeping up in school, teachers say. They end up being tired and grouchy, they're more likely to have behavioral problems, and they aren't able to fulfill their academic potential. Even sleep specialists are now beginning to believe that certain behavioral and learning problems among children are the result of undetected sleep deprivation.  The bottom line is that a good night's sleep is the best guarantee of a pleasant and productive day at school.
✯ Eats a filling and nutritious breakfast either at home or at school.  Children who skip breakfast may not feel hungry when they first get to school, but according to teachers, they usually hit a slump around mid-morning and can't keep their minds on schoolwork, until sometime after lunch.  If your child doesn't like the traditional foods kids eat for breakfast, let him eat what he does like. There's nothing nutritionally wrong with eating pizza or a peanut butter sandwich in the morning. Or, let him choose to eat breakfast at school.  Some children even eat a small bite at home AND then have breakfast at school.  Find what works best for your child.
✯ Wears the proper clothes for both the day's activities and the weather. A child who comes to school without snow pants, mittens, a hat, or boots in the winter will have to sit on the sidelines for recess while her classmates spend their excess energy on the playground. A child who doesn't have sneakers on PE day may end up just watching the action, while everyone else is running around having fun.  Children don't always have the best judgment when it comes to protective clothing. (If it's warm in the house, they assume it's going to be warm outside, for example.) And they don't always remember which days they have gym or other special activities. So it's up to you to tell your child what to expect in terms of weather, and what to wear — or at least bring — to school.
✯ Labels all belongings. That includes his outerwear, backpack, lunch box, books, school supplies — and any other piece of clothing or personal item that might somehow get separated from him during the school day.  The iron-on labels are a great investment because you child’s belongings will find their way back to him.
✯ Has a snack. Most children aren't thinking about eating when they run out to meet the bus or jump in the car in the morning. It's your job to either make it, take it, or remind your child to remember about snack.
✯ Brings her red folder to school every day. The home/school folder is our primary vehicle for communication with you.
✯ Remembers to bring special supplies for special days. It’s pretty upsetting to a child to be the only one who forgot pajamas on pajama day or who didn’t have a simple costume or prop for “dress as your favorite character day”.  These are the kinds of details most kids (and parents) have a hard time remembering. So it's your job to find a way to help you both stay on top of teacher requests. Hang up a big calendar with important dates circled in red, for instance, or put up post-it notes on the bathroom mirror the night before a special day at school.  You are modeling important executive functioning strategies that your child will need to succeed.
✯ Knows exactly who will pick him up and what will happen when the school day ends. Children will worry all day long if they don't know what to expect when that final bell rings. So remind your child when she's leaving home: "I'll see you at the corner when the bus drops you off at three p.m." If you anticipate any change in the daily routine, or in the person greeting your child after school, make sure you give plenty of notice.  It’s helpful to run through a morning departure checklist:  Homework? Snack? Lunch plan?  What special class is she having that day?  (i.e. Sneakers?  Library books?)  After school plans?   Once again, you’re modeling the organizational skills they’ll need to be successful in school and it helps if you share the strategies you use to keep you and your family organized.  

❦   Spend time in your child's school
Even if it's only once a year, and you have to take a half-day off from work to do it. All children get a real thrill when they see their parent in their classroom, library, computer lab, or school celebration. You could even just come for lunch.  It sends a powerful message that you care about your child, and about her education.

Seeing the classroom firsthand is also the best way for you to get a perspective on what and how the teacher is teaching, what kinds of challenges the teacher is facing, what the class chemistry is, how your child fits in within the group, and how she interacts with specific peers. Plus, it will give you a better idea of the kinds of questions you should ask to draw your child out when talking about school.

❦   Encourage responsibility and independence
Both of these are essential to independent learning. And both will make it easier for your child to adjust to the demands of school, and get along with his teacher and classmates. So, whenever possible, let your child do things for himself — and for others.
For example, encourage him to:
✯ Play an active role in getting ready for school. That includes picking out school clothes (preferably the night before), getting up on time (using an alarm clock, if necessary), getting dressed, washing up and brushing his teeth, getting his own breakfast ready, making up his bed, and checking to make sure he has everything he needs in his backpack. Once your child is physically capable of doing these things, let him take charge. If necessary, make him a checklist to help him remember everything that needs to be done.
✯ Develop a homework routine. While there's no set formula, it will help if your child has a regular time and place to do her homework each day. That way she's less likely to forget to do it, and less likely to fight about doing it "later on."
✯ Unpack his own backpack. Teach him that as soon as he gets home from school, he should unpack his backpack, put his homework materials in his homework place, and hand you (or put in a special place) the red folder with any newsletters, notes from the teacher, papers to sign, or special work he's brought home. Then he can go outside to play, or have his snack, or do whatever else is planned. If you make this part of a daily routine, you're less likely to be hit during the morning rush with, "Oh, no! I'm supposed to bring in cupcakes for the party today" or "Today's the day you're supposed to come to school for our science fair."  Please make sure together that the red folder returns to school the following day.  It’s an important communication tool for us.
✯ Pick up her own mess. That includes toys scattered on the living room floor, bikes, and roller skates left out on the driveway, and wet towels left cold and lonely on the bathroom floor. It may take longer and require more effort for you to insist that your child pick things up herself, but in the long run it's better for her than having you always do it. In school, she won't have a choice.
✯ Get involved in family meals. Young children can set the table or help with the grocery list.
✯ Perform regular chores that benefit the entire family. Even little things like taking out the trash regularly will help your child see herself as part of a larger family team. It will also build her sense of competence and confidence.

❦   Ask your child about school every day
It isn't always easy to get the scoop on school from your own child. If you ask a perfectly normal, sincere question like, "What did you do at school today?", you're likely to get the classic response: "Nothing."

One reason is that so many things happen in the classroom that it's hard for the average child to answer a question like that. She can't remember everything she did, and even if she could, she wouldn't know where to start. It doesn't help to ask, "What did you learn at school today?" or "How was school today?" either. Both will elicit one-word answers ("Nothing" or "Fine"), because they're too broad and too vague for most children to process.  It's still important to ask about school, because it teaches your child that school is important, and that you really are interested in her life. So how can you get your child to open up? Here's what other parents say really works:
✯ Don't ask too soon. "When my son gets off the bus, the last thing he wants to do is talk about school," says one parent. "He's too busy thinking about playing with his toys or visiting his friends. So I've learned to let him chill out and play awhile before asking any questions."
Develop a ritual. "For some reason, the only time my 5-year-old son really opens up about school is when he's taking a bath," says a parent. "So every night, when he gets into the tub, my husband sits with him for ten or fifteen minutes, and my son tells him everything that happened at school. He really looks forward to that time with his father."
"For my son, the magic moment is bedtime," says another parent. "He's probably just trying to stall me, so he can stay up later. But when he's all tucked in and the lights are off, I hear the most detailed descriptions about school."
✯ Ask specific questions. "I get the best responses when I ask my son about something I'm pretty sure he did at school that day," says one mom. For instance: "Did the teacher read any new books today? Did you learn any new songs during music class? Who sat next to you at lunch?" The more specific you can be, the better.
✯ Play a game. A favorite is Two Truths and a Lie.  Ask your child to tell you three things about her day -  2 of them are true and 1 is a lie and it’s your job to guess which two are true.  As you can imagine, this can lead to many interesting conversations and it also gives you a chance to teach about the importance of honesty.  
✯ Read everything the teacher sends home. "The notes and newsletters that come home in my son's backpack are really the most reliable sources of information," says one father. "I find out what my son is learning about, what's coming up in terms of special events or field trips, what kind of help the teacher could use in the classroom, and what I can do at home to reinforce what my son is learning in school. It's not always easy to find time to read them, but it's worth the effort because it helps me fill in the blanks from conversations with my son."
Give your child space. Some children like to think of school as their own private world, where their parents and siblings can't intrude. If your child is like that, don't push. Let him know you're interested in his school day, and let him approach you if he has anything really important to share. Then stay in touch behind the scenes with the teacher, to make sure everything's going okay.

❦   How Love Raises Children ❦  

❦    When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang my drawing on the refrigerator, and I wanted to do another one.

❦   When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight, and I felt loved.

❦   When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s all right to cry.

❦   When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you become very angry, and stay calm and “use your words,” and I learned to do that, too.

❦   When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you give my clothes that didn’t fit any more to those less fortunate, and I learned to reach out to others to help.

❦   When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you read, just for fun, and I learned to love books and learning.

❦   When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you look at the night sky, and I learned to see the beauty in the world around me.

❦   When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you sing as you worked, and I learned that work can bring great satisfaction.

❦   When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you fail, and make mistakes, and I saw you keep doing your best, and I learned perseverance.

❦    When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked… and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.