Back to school rules

By Timothy Houston

It is hard to believe that a new school year is upon us.

Parents will be scrambling to get all the remaining needed items to make their children’s school year a success. Beyond the clothes, books, paper, pencils and other learning tools, there are some behavior traits that are needed as well. To help you along the way, here are New Frontiers in Learning’s “Five Keys to a Successful School Year.”

Start off (and stay) organized
Having a system for keeping track of all notes, papers, grades, homework and assignment descriptions is an important start to any school year. Some students find it helpful to have separate notebooks and folders for each class. In this case, all books and folders can be color coded and labeled for easy identification. Another method of organization is to use a single binder with separate sections for each class. Each section should be labeled and should contain loose-leaf paper for note taking. All papers and handouts for the class should also be added to the section on a daily basis. Whichever method is chosen, be sure to figure out which one works specifically for the student early on and encourage them to follow it consistently throughout the year. Organizing all papers and notes daily allows students to be able to find class materials more easily.

Budget and schedule time
We all face difficulties managing our time, but students can set themselves up for success by using and maintaining a daily schedule. This schedule should include all class names, locations, and times, plus any other outside responsibilities that the student may have, such as work hours, sports practice and family obligations. By maintaining a weekly schedule, the student can keep track of not only unchanged repeated responsibilities, but also any one-time obligations for each week (concerts, special afterschool group study sessions, etc.). Furthermore, following a daily and weekly schedule makes it much easier to see where the student can build in time for homework and studying, as well as study breaks. Once a schedule is made, students should be encouraged to stick to it. Having a planner that has both weekly and monthly sections allows the student to clearly see and review short- and long-term expectations.

Ask for help
Many times, students have a difficult time recognizing when they need help, as well as identifying who and/or where to turn to receive help. Students need to review the help-seeking process in the beginning of each school year. If something is confusing, if they don’t know how to start or structure a project or assignment, or if they have any other questions about class requirements, students should be reminded to ask for help. And they need to understand that asking for help will not make them look bad; rather, it will actually show their teachers that they care about the class and want to be successful. Students should review the protocol in asking clarifying questions. Some teachers reserve the beginning or end of the school day for students’ questions, while others encourage students to email them. Once students know what their individual teachers prefer, they should be encouraged to follow such systems as a resource to clear up any questions that may arise.

Write it all down
Have you ever told yourself that you didn’t need to write something down because you would remember it, only to struggle to remember what that very thing was just minutes later? You’re not alone. It happens to everyone, especially students taking multiple classes with various responsibilities. To prevent students from forgetting key information in class, they should be encouraged to write everything down – even the things that they think they will remember later. Of course, writing everything down can be difficult for some students, so an alternative could be to record their classes or to use some form of assistive technology, such as a smart pen.

Set reminders
Having a system in place to help remind students of important dates is essential. Sometimes teachers announce due dates infrequently during a course, or due dates for assignments and exams may be outlined far in advance and then not discussed again. In such cases, students may panic on the day an assignment is due or an exam is given because they aren’t prepared. To avoid such situations, students need to learn to set reminders in their daily planner or on their smart phones, which they can use to set timers that will go off several times as the assignment deadlines and exam dates approach. These reminders can also help students remember when to start studying or when to begin an assignment, preventing the anxiety associated with cramming or unpreparedness.

The 2016 school year will be a great time for learning and social interactions. To make it a success in both areas, the student must adhere to the keys to success. Print out this article and review these simple back to school rules with your student. A new school year is a wonderful time of the year, and I pray God’s blessing on all of the students. May this year be one of great success.

Timothy Houston is an author, minister, and motivational speaker who is committed to guiding positive life changes in families and communities. For questions, comments or more information, go to

August 25, 2016
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