SOUTHERN UTAH — In actor Adam Sandler’s 1995 film “Billy Madison,” Sanders famously sings: “Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I’m not a fool. I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don’t get in a fight. Ohhhh, back to school. Back to school. Back to school. Well, here goes nothing.”
For students and teachers across Southern Utah it’s time to pack up lunches, tie up shoes and head back to school. It is an exciting and nerve-wracking time as students prepare to return to a more rigorous schedule, work with new teachers and make new friends.
But like any good educators, the teachers and administrators in Southern Utah want their students to come to school armed with the best knowledge possible.
The following is a handy back-to-school guide compiled by area teachers and administrators on some simple do’s and don’ts for both parents and students. Since the headline probably largely drew you to this article, let’s start with those ubiquitous fidget spinners.
Don’t bring toys to school.
As each school year comes and goes, there is generally a toy that becomes the popular thing to own and share with classmates. A currently trending toy is the fidget spinner, which seems to be everywhere. Fidget spinners are particularly insidious as they are sold under the guise of being a tool to help combat symptoms of attention deficit disorder.
Most teachers – and many experts – have just labeled it a toy.
“I hate fidget spinners,” Christie Gubler, an intermediate school art teacher, said. “They do nothing but cause distraction in class. In art, students need to be using their hands to create, not spinning the spinner.”
Third grade teacher Emily Holt agrees.
“Just, no,” Holt said of the fidget spinners. “It’s a toy, it’s not helpful. It’s a distraction to everyone. Please leave them at home.”
All toys, including personal electronic devices not used for school, should be left at home or turned off during class.
Steven Dunham, director of communications for the the Washington County School District, said he understands that the school environment can be stressful and uncomfortable to students at any age and that familiar objects can provide comfort.
However, Dunham stressed that parents and students should trust that the teachers have been through this process many times and that they have the tools to help their students become adjusted to the new environment.
“Then they’ll have opportunities to learn without the toys and the distractions in their life,” he said.
Do get on a good schedule, including good meals
“We would love parents to be getting their students ready to be waking up early and coming to school prepared to learn,” Dunham said, adding that going to bed early and waking up early, along with getting a good meal, are seemingly small things that are actually critical to the success of a student in the classroom.
Along with eating a good meal, Holt offered a few tips for parents packing school lunches.
“I think you have to do what works best for your family,” she said. “Keep it healthy, easy, simple and make sure it is stuff your kids will eat. As teachers we see a lot of food get thrown away because the kids don’t like it.”
Don’t follow the department store school supply list
Many eager parents and students will rush to a department store, pick up the provided school supply list and buy each item. This is not the best idea, Holt said, and is a potential waste of money.
“The list is kind of helpful, but it is not exactly what you need. It’s just a suggestion,” she said. “Wait to get a list from your teacher. Teachers almost always have a list of what they need you to bring.”
Do wear appropriate clothing
Holt stressed that students attending school all day should choose clothes that are comfortable and not restrictive. Elementary students have gym days, and it is crucial students come dressed ready to participate in a gym activity. Many of these activities take place outside, and students and parents should be aware of the weather so they can help their children be properly prepared.
Older students should pay particular attention to following the school’s dress code.
Don’t be a bully
It’s unfortunate that this even has to be listed, but bullying will not be tolerated, Holt said.
Do be an involved parent
“Teachers love involved parents,” Gubler said. “Sending an email to introduce yourself just sets a positive tone for the year. I answer hundreds of emails every school year from parents. I appreciate the parents and their desire to help their children succeed.”
It is an interactive relationship, she said.
As a teacher I also send positive emails home. I think sometimes we focus on what the student can do better, but I focus on what the student is doing right. The learning environment becomes such a productive and fun place. Students create more, and fantastic art is produced. So I guess what I’m saying in a round about way is to get involved.
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