Teachers Offer Tips to Equip Students Heading Back to School

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Catholic school teachers told CNY it’s important for students to be prepared for the new school year because the first few weeks will set the tone for the entire year.

Students should be preparing now for the 2019-2020 school year as Catholic schools in the archdiocese will be opening after Labor Day.

“Come in prepared, make sure you have all your supplies and have the right mindset to be successful in school. If kids come in with a plan, it always works out,” said Kyle O’Donnell, a science teacher and assistant principal for academics entering his 14th year at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx.

“Summer was great and you’re coming into the new school year recharged and ready to go.”

Students have been preparing throughout the summer for the upcoming school year by doing their summer reading and not waiting until the final weeks to squeeze in their assignments.

Roberto Placido, who teaches math for grades five through eight at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Manhattan, said students should review what they learned the previous year to better prepare them for the new year.

“I’ve had kids in the past who haven’t prepared themselves and it takes a month or month-and-a-half for them get into a routine,” said Placido, who is a 1996 alumnus of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs. “Reading is important because it keeps their mind active. You want to keep your mind active and your reading stamina up.

“The first month of the school year is extremely important. Everything from discipline and a routine in the classroom is picked up” then, he said, “and you’re setting the tone for the rest of the year.”

In the final week or two of summer vacation, students should begin getting into their school year routine of going to bed early to get the necessary hours of sleep for a successful school day, waking up each morning as though it was a school day and eating a healthy breakfast.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” said O’Donnell. “It helps everyone start the day off right to have some energy to get through the day. The school day brings surprises and they need to be ready. They can’t be ready for that if they start the day off hungry.”

Linda Ballew, a kindergarten teacher entering her seventh year at Blessed Sacrament on Staten Island, agreed with her colleagues about students getting into their routine before the start of school and added another tip with the Labor Day holiday weekend leading into the first days of school.

“I would not recommend going away right before school starts,” said Ms. Ballew, who previously taught second and third grade at St. Joseph on Staten Island for 21 years. “They stay out late and have a different routine. They should be going to bed early, getting up at 7 a.m. and having breakfast. There is no way that is happening on vacation.”

Once the school year begins, Placido said it’s important to make the students feel “welcomed and part of a family.”

“You want to be positive. Kids feed off your energy,” he said.

O’Donnell suggests students get involved in school programs such as athletics and clubs.

“All of the schools in the archdiocese are a community and the more you get involved in that community, the more you’re going to get out of it,” he said.

The teachers said they’re as anxious as the students to get the new school year started.

“I love what I do,” said Ms. Ballew. “I get up and say, ‘I’m going to school.’ I do not say I’m going to work.

“I hope after 10 months, they look forward to moving on and have the tools they need to conquer first grade without any hesitation.”

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