by Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
District Superintendent

With just one month left until the start of the new school year, this is an opportune time to prepare for a successful academic journey ahead. Below are some ways to help prepare children for a productive and fulfilling school year.

Build a foundation for success through reading
Reading is the cornerstone of academic success. It not only enhances language and communication skills, but also fosters a lifelong love for reading and curiosity. A recent study in Psychological Medicine found that children who read for pleasure performed better on tests and enjoy better mental health. Encourage your child to read for pleasure this month, allowing them to pick titles of their interest from the local library.

Nurture a growth mindset
Dr. Carol Dweck identified two types of mindsets – growth and fixed. A growth mindset involves believing our abilities and intelligence can be improved with effort and the right strategies (whereas those with a fixed mindset believe their abilities and intelligence cannot be altered). Emphasize the power of effort, perseverance and learning from experiences, including mistakes. Praise their work and resilience, especially when they face challenges. This will help cultivate a love for learning and a belief in their ability to improve and succeed.

Encourage active learning
Encourage your children to be active participants in their learning as it instills a love for learning and promotes critical thinking. Encourage them to set goals and explore concepts actively by asking open-ended questions. Project-based learning, puzzles, games, and field trips can provide real-world connections to the subject matter. Even daily activities like driving and cooking offer opportunities for learning. Active learning can happen anywhere and at any time.

Limit technology
While technology can be an invaluable tool, excessive screen time can have a detrimental effect on our children’s well-being. This includes sleep deprivation, physical strain to eyes and body, physical changes to the brain, and mental health. According to Common Sense Media, teens average more than eight hours on their phones each day. Much of this time is spent on videos, gaming, and social media.

The return of school presents an opportunity for parents and caretakers to establish healthy boundaries in a world where media use is higher than ever. Limit social media and non-educational screen time during the day, and especially before bedtime, to ensure a smooth transition back to school. Encourage outdoor play, physical activities, and face-to-face interactions to promote a healthy balance.

Establish consistent routines
Stability and structure are crucial for our children’s well-being and development. As we approach September, reintroduce and reinforce consistent routines and schedules. Create a dedicated study space that is free from distractions to encourage a sense of ownership and responsibility. Adequate sleep is often overlooked, but research has demonstrated that well-rested students perform better academically. Gradually adjust bedtimes to align with the school schedule to ensure your child is well rested and ready for learning.

Communicate with your child’s teachers and others
As parents and caretakers, you are vital partners in your child’s educational journey. Please engage with your child’s teachers and staff by attending conferences, open houses, and school events. School and teacher communication will keep you updated on your child’s progress and help address any areas of improvement. Be proactive in seeking help if you child needs extra support. Your involvement in associations like the PTO or PTA can also further strengthen the school-home partnership.

The beginning of a new year offers a chance for a fresh start and an opportunity for continued growth and development. Let’s work together to create an environment where students of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, and interests can thrive academically, emotionally, and socially. As District Superintendent of Questar III BOCES, I am committed to working with superintendents in Columbia, Greene, and Rensselaer counties to support our students. This includes the 1,600 students attending Questar III BOCES programs and the nearly 29,000 students attending our region’s public schools. I wish you all a delightful August and look forward to welcoming our students and staff back in September.

This column appeared in the Register Star and The Daily Mail newspapers.


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