Back to School Reminders for Everyone
Believe it or not, I have 34 years of student/teacher experience, and I’d like to use
that knowledge to help you. Because whether you have children or not, everyone is
affected by the back to school experience. Yes, even you the childless, cat-loving
So, here are some reminders and advice for all of you as we start school. (Feel free to
skip to your section. You won’t hurt my feelings, I promise.)
For the Childless, Adult Folk
- Know your local school bus schedule. You do not want to be caught behind
the big yellow taxi on your way to work. If you do get caught, DO NOT drive
around the stop! Just sing along to P!nk and think about all the soccer games
you don’t have to sit through. That will balance the scales.
- Okay, this one is tough even for me: the school fundraiser. If a friendly child
(with or without an adult present) can politely explain the reason behind the
fundraiser, just buy one. If you don’t want it, take it to a food bank or use it as
a white elephant1 present.
- There is a correlation between education and crime. So, please don’t bitch
and moan about your tax dollars going into schools. You do benefit!
- This is for parents of the teenage crowd and it is critical. Your child needs to
advocate for themselves. Nothing annoyed me more than when I received an
email from a parent regarding a question or comment I could have easily
answered or clarified from a minute conversation with my student. And don’t
tell me, “she’s intimidated” or “he’s shy”. Teachers are generally the most
patient professionals you can find. If your son or daughter can’t approach an
adult like that with a reasonable question or comment, they need to learn
- School policy is very different from when you were sitting behind the desk
(most likely). If you have a problem with a policy2 , go to the school board.
Classroom policy could be different (like lab rules), but even that is probably
not unique to one teacher.
- It’s okay for your child to only have one afterschool activity each marking
period/semester. Let your child take a break. You’ll be less stressed because
of it too. Maybe you can even listen to P!nk and think of all the money you’re
saving not participating in travel ball.
For (Mostly New) Teachers
- “Everyone gets a clean slate.” I heard this a lot coming out of other
classrooms and I agree with it, but I had a slightly different interpretation.
Essentially, I pretended I never heard of any of my students before. Allow me
to provide you with an example:
Me: What is your name?
Student: <amused, yet annoyed> You don’t know who I am?
Me: <acting innocent> No, I’m sorry I don’t. Should I?
Student: Well, um, it’s just that a lot of people know me.
Me: Care to elaborate?
At this point, Mr. or Ms. Popular is forced to disclose why they are so famous
or infamous without me being accused later of judging them on their past.
And the biggest bonus of them all was the non-popular kids immediately saw
me as an ally and knew that everyone in the room was the same. There were
no bonus points or points deducted for their prior actions.
And I should mention I did this for everyone. The troublemakers, the gifted,
the rich, the star athletes, etcetera.
- You need a prop drink for meetings. You will be in a conference where you
need a second to stall or cover a smirk. A cup of tea or coffee can do that, a
bottle or clear glass cannot. This is a strategy I recommend for all meetings.
- Acting! My primary interest is biology; however, I taught earth science for
seven years. I hate earth science, but I couldn’t let my students know that. If a
teacher isn’t interested in what they are teaching, how can they expect their
students to be interested? I acted like cloud formation was akin to watching
animals in heat mate3. And those clouds got down!
For (Teenage & Adult) Students
- It’s okay not to want to go to college. There are numerous trades, skills, and
needs of society, which do not require a college education, but they do
require a work ethic. That brings me to…
- Not everything is easy to learn and when that happens, you have to try.
Staring at the problem doesn’t work. You have to discuss it, draw pictures,
make flashcards, practice technique, and/or watch video on YouTube until it
sinks in or you at least understand it well enough to form better questions. I
have literally made thousands of flashcards for my own studies. It works…at
least for me.
- Go into every class with an open mind. You may find you’ll learn to enjoy
something new or a hated subject comes with a teacher worthy of Dead
Poet’s Society level inspiration. As a science education undergrad, my favorite
course was Religions of the East. Who knew?
As the school year progresses, it may be helpful to remember some of these big-
picture items. But I neglected to share the most important piece of advice: take
Picture Day seriously. It will either haunt you forever or provide proof that you
were always cool.
Me: Cool since first grade.
- This is my go-to for an item I receive and have no idea what I’ll do with it.
- Which could be an extremely valid point. After all, school policy is decided by
individuals who probably do not have training in education. Yay, government.
- Everyone thinks this is interesting, right? Oh, just me? Nevermind.