Back To School. It’s that time of year again. School supplies are on the shelves, class lists are being printed, and some of us are anxiously awaiting Back to School Night! For some of us, however, this can be a time of transition. As a teacher who has changed jobs from one district to another, and a mother who has transitioned her son from private to public school, I have learned a few things along the way. All transitions can be trying, but luckily schools are surrounded by helpful people, organizations and educational professionals that are willing to assist you. Seek their counsel! Summer is a great time to take inventory of what your new district has to offer. Take advantage of these great tips to help ease the anxiety that a move can stir up in children (and parents too).
1. Participate in summer groups/programs if possible.
If you are lucky enough to move to your new district prior to August (or live close by), I suggest finding a summer educational or sports program for your child. This is a great way for your little one
(and you!) to meet the children from the new school, and maybe even build a nice social network. Seeing a familiar face on the first day of school can make all the difference for some children. We enrolled in YMCA soccer the summer before we began at a new district. Other suggested local activities could be: library events, parks and recreation activities, Facebook play groups, dance classes, space camp, museum activities, VBS, boy/girls scouts, the list goes on and on!
2. Bring an educational portfolio to enrollment.
Do not be intimidated by this! I say educational portfolio because I am a teacher, but it simply means, bring some school work, reports, and test scores to enrollment day. Your previous district should be able to provide (and usually transfer for you) all NECESSARY paperwork, but I like to have a copy, you know, just in case. This way, it can’t get lost in the mail!
Things to put in your portfolio:
- Report Cards
- Test Results
- Parent/Teacher Conference Reports
- Letters from previous teachers (if needed)
- Work Samples
If you feel your child will need certain accommodations such as a Gifted Program, IEP, etc. MAKE SURE THEY ARE TESTED IN ADVANCE IF POSSIBLE. Yes, it is possible to get tested after school starts, but it is ideal if your child can begin school in the classroom that will be their home for the year. For the gifted program, for example, students need to be tested and meet certain criteria to be scheduled into those classes. If done prior to August, your child can begin school in those classes, rather than be added later. Each county/district will have its own specifications, so get informed!
3. Check School Website for Registration Day
Oftentimes, schools will set aside a week dedicated to new enrollment. (Do not worry if this time doesn’t work with your schedule). However, this week/day/ etc/ will ensure that all personnel are ready and willing. You will most likely need to meet with more than one person, and during this week the staff is generally full steam ahead! It is also nice to meet the secretary, principal, counselors, etc in your new building. You may even ask to take a tour with your child.
4. Be a Joiner
Joining parent organizations is a great way to meet both teachers and community members. It is also very helpful in developing an understanding of parent/teacher/community relationships. These organizations can give you great insight into connecting with the school community in general. You will meet other parents, find out where you can help, and get involved, starting at the beginning of the year. Many parent/teacher organizations have Facebook pages or websites as well! Check it out.
5.Make new friends, but keep the old.
In our transition, we were lucky enough to keep in touch with old friends. This was helpful for both child AND MAMA (mama needs her support group!). We would meet halfway for activities, and still do the occasional phone call or face time. It helped my son shake his feelings of loneliness, and leant him the support he needed to go out and make some new friends! As far as new friends go, we are picking them up slowly but surely! We joined soccer, swim, and attended a few summer camps with new and old alike.