As the summer ends for suburban children, their teachers have one common goal: Refocus students to the classroom.
Many teachers agree that a comfortable, welcoming classroom is key to getting kids' heads back in the game. Also important is building a personal relationship and trust that teacher is there to help.
Megan Knops, a third-grade teacher at Westview Elementary School in Wood Dale, said the key to getting the younger students focused is to start before the end of the previous school year.
"I always provide students with (summer) activities to keep going, like some math packets and at least one book at their reading level. I also encourage them to write me letters to keep their writing skill strong," Knops said. "If they come back with their packet complete and the book read, I'll do something special for them like host a pizza party or something."
So immediately upon starting the new year, she said, kids are reuniting with a familiar face and feeling a sense of accomplishment before the first day is even over.
Allison Harvey, a sixth-grade teacher Crone Middle School in Naperville, says the first two weeks are critical bonding time for students and teachers, especially when they're in a new setting, like a middle school, for the first time.
"The first two weeks is about being friendly and kind and letting the students know we're here to ease any of their worries because sixth grade is a mini high school and the first time they have to go to nine different classes," she said. "The first week of school, I have kids set goals, both personal and academic. It's a good exercise for them but also for me so I can see what's important for them. I also ask them to fill out a personal survey that lets the kids know I care about them, not only as students but also as people."
As students progress to high school, some teachers say the key to capturing a student's attention is to be accepting to their ideas and thought process.
"As far as getting students back into school mode, I like to make sure that they feel welcomed and accepted as they enter my classroom. When they are comfortable and welcomed, they in return will want to come back and in some cases, look forward to coming back to your class," said Fenton High School social studies teacher Michael Berago. "Once I've established this, then I ease into the content and begin to familiarize students with the routines and expectations in my classroom."
More often than not, these teachers say, the students are ready to get back to school, so any adjustments are minor.
"I think they're excited to be there but I think they also need structure," Harvey said. "Kids love coming back and having clear cut structure and the rules laid out for them in the beginning."
For other students, it may be the first time reuniting with classmates since the end of the previous school year.
"I've found that students are usually excited for first day and are ready to learn, but they also want to hear what I and their classmates did over break," Knop said. "That social element is also a big piece of the students feeling welcome and comfortable."