Whether we like it or not, here we are. Back to school. I know, I said it. Pretend I only said it in a whisper. Shhhh. No matter what our feels are right now, this is the reality. So, how can we be ready to face this? How can we prepare our kids and our families to make this transition as painless as possible? This week, we’ll explore how to get back to school ready with a smile.
Holding onto Summer
It seems hard to believe that summer is nearly over. In same districts, students have already gone back to school. Consider this data, 43% of all U.S. K-12 pupils are back in school by August 16. The Pew Research analysis determined that the majority of schools across the nation are returning between August 12 and August 16, which is just on the horizon.
I’ve begun to eye the looming cloud of back to school like a thunder storm in the distance. Last night, we got a huge storm. Before it even started, I could hear deep thunder, but when I went outside to check, the sky was blue, slightly cloudy and sunny out. Then, boom. It was black out and the rain was coming down sideways. That is exactly how I am feeling about back to school right now. Sideways. Full disclosure- as a parent and a teacher, I do not feel ready. Is it obvious?
When do you go back to school?
Across Maryland, the start dates vary. Luckily, not as varied as they are across the country. Private schools are on their own individual schedules, but for the Maryland public systems, the start dates are as follows:
- Allegany- August 24
- Anne Arundel-Aug. 29th grades 1-5, 6 and 9; Aug. 30th grades 1-12
- Baltimore City- August 29
- Baltimore County- August 29
- Calvert- August 30
- Caroline- August 31
- Carroll- September 6
- Cecil- September 1
- Charles- August 29
- Dorchester- Aug. 29th grades 1-5, 6 and 9; Aug. 30th grades 7-8, and 10-12; Aug.31st PreK and K
- Frederick- August 17
- Garrett- September 6
- Harford- September 6
- Howard- August 29
- Kent- Aug. 29th grades K-6 and 9; Aug. 30th grades K-12; Aug. 31st PreK
- Montgomery- July 6th; Arcola and Roscoe R. Nix Elementary
- Prince George’s- August 29; Aug. 26th orientation
- Queen Anne’s- Aug. 29th grades 1-6 and 9; Aug. 30th grades 7-8 and 10-12; Aug. 31st PreK and K
- St. Mary’s- August 24; Aug. 10th Chesapeake Public Charter School
- Somerset- August 29
- Talbot- August 29
- Washington- August 29
- Wicomico- September 6; Sept. 6th grades 1-6 and 9; all grades at Pittsville; grade 6 only at Mardela; PreK and K as assigned; Sept. 7th grades 1-12; PreK and K as assigned
- Worcester- September 6
- SEED School- August 22
The full back to school Maryland State Department of Education calendar can be found here.
What do you need?
Generally, you will get a list from your school or teacher with suggested and required items needed for school. I have found that walking about the Back to School aisles in the stores can be overwhelming. I am also prone to impulse purchases, like, of course I need the faux succulent magnets and pencil case shaped like a smiling avocado. OK, I totally bought both things. NO REGRETS!
My favorite back to school essentials
- First and foremost for back to school, I suggest a planner. You cannot go wrong with a planner. It is my favorite thing to get myself organized. How to choose the best one? Consider your student, their particular learning style (visual, tactile, etc.) and what their year level will be. These all help determine the best type of planner you will need. I like having a full spread month calendar with an option to do daily organizing- including assignments, deadlines, appointments, meetings, etc. I prefer a physical planer over a digital organizer because it requires my intentionally sitting down and spending time on it.
- Let me tell you about how jazzed up I get about post-its. Whew. I LOVE a gorgeous rainbow square pack of post-its. I was recently at an educational conference and I won an in -session raffle and the prize was post-its. I could have died. Thankfully, these were not people I will see regularly because I straight up EMBARRASSED myself in my glee to have those post-its in my hands. It was a good day. I am officially back to school ready.
- At a certain time in our lives, we find ourselves drawn to particular writing utensils. You will have to pry my Ticonderoga pencils and my Pilot G-2 purple Ink Pens out of my cold stiff hands. I am still prone to buying some festive glitter encrusted pencils here and there, but these are my preferred utensils for back to school and all the time. Also, then I can tell if someone snagged one of my pens. “Swiper, no swiping!”
- Highlighters- oh highlighters. I LOVE color. Organizing is magic for me. Bringing those two together and organizing in color, whoa buddy, hold on tight. My favorite way to organize in color is to use highlighters to indicate meetings, doctors appointments, deadlines, etc. This helps me out when I glance at my planner to see all the varying colors pop out telling me what I am looking at! I go through a lot of highlighters and my favorite ones are Sharpie clear view chisel tip highlighters.
There are so many great products out there. What are your favorites? What makes you excited to put in your cart? Do you make succulent and avocado impulse purchases too?
I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on school safety as we head back to school. In the wake of so much recent tragedy, it seems surreal that this is our reality. But, it is. Until things change in our country, this is what we have to deal with as parents and as teachers. Schools and larger districts have safety features and drills in place that we practice throughout the school year. Some basics to go over with your kids as they head back to the bus stop or other modes of transportation can be helpful. I find that espeically since things have been so haphazard the past few years, thinking about getting to and from school is a good part of the transition.
- Get to the bus stop 10 minutes early. Unfortunately, so many buses in Maryland and other states are short staffed which causes them to run late or not come at all. That being said, in a perfect world, it’s still best to be early rather than late.
- Slow down! Pay special attention to schools being back in session. Kids are learning their routes and routines. When you see a bus, slow down, especially make sure to stop completely if the bus extends the stop signal. Do not pass buses. It is so easy to get in the zone of rushing in the mornings, but don;t lose sight of being considerate and aware. Extend the same courtesy that you’d want others to towards your own children.
- Speak up. Talk with your kids about using their voice to tell a grown up if something seems off to them. They can even submit an anonymous tip to the “Say Something” system. The app is free and available to download from the App Store and Google Play Store, and students can submit tips through the hotline by calling 1-844-5-SAYNOW.
Smooth the back to school transition
Last, but not least, is how to get back into the school mindset. Some quick tips for getting started may seem obvious, but they stand to be repeated so we can implement them.
- Establish a routine. If you’re like me, you have probably been doing whatever, whenever most of the summer. Pool today? Sure. Lunch at 2pm? Sure. Watching Harry Potter until 11pm? Sure. Gradually start easing back to a standard bedtime and making wake up times a little earlier and structured. Everyone will be much less miserable when that first day arrives with a vengeful early start time.
- Set attainable goals. What do you want to accomplish during the school year? Do you want to increase your grade in a subject? Maybe try out for a sport? Whatever the plan, make small achievable steps towards that goal. This keeps you from getting discouraged and giving up!
- Get organized. See above my suggested organizational supplies. Getting organized can really get the ball rolling on the right track. Gather all your papers from your first couple of days and organize them by subject, color code where needed. Condense papers into a binder or folders. Make sure you have all supplies needed for your classes. Fill out your planner with days off, meetings, assignments, etc. You’ll be able to stay ahead right off the bat by getting organized right away.
Even those of us who are the most excited to go back to school have some trepidation. Find what works best for you to feel ready. Let us know in the comments what your favorite supplies are or best practices for making the transition. Have a great, healthy and productive school year!
Courtney is an MTT tutor, academic coach, and blog contributor for MTTES. If you check out our FB and Instagram pages, you might see her giving a storytime with her son Jack through the company’s Facebook Live service. Courtney’s love of the English language, learning, and creative writing inspired her to contribute relevant content to teachers, tutors, parents, and homeschoolers seeking support across an array of trending topics. She and her teacher husband have two small children and reside in Baltimore, MD with their dog Lottie May.