A weekend interview with...
... Citrus Park Elementary principal Joan Bookman. A veteran school leader, Bookman offered some advice for parents and youngsters about to begin school on Monday. She spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek.
What do you tell parents and kids to do on the Sunday before they come to school?
Sunday night, have them go to bed early. Make sure they have all their things ready to go and have an outfit picked out if they're not wearing a uniform. Lay it out for them to get dressed. That helps them get there on time. And the one thing that we really like to stress with the kids and their parents is, however they're going to be getting to school during the year, let them do it on the first day. That way they get used to it.
You'll have some kindergartners and some other kids who are new to the school. I'm sure one of the things the parents like to do is give them a hug and walk them to the classroom. What do you say to that kind of ritual?
At our school that's one of the things we encourage. We certainly don't mind that. Again, if the child is going to be riding the school bus to school, we ask that the parent let them ride the school bus and they come to school and meet them at the bus stop and walk them in. That way they know about the bus ride, especially if they're new kindergartners.
Will you let them continue to do that all year long?
We have parents that do all year long. Somewhere during the school year, though, it's nice to have them be independent. But we also understand that kindergartners are small, and parents worry a little bit more about their kindergarten students. But we do have adults all around and safety patrols ready to go and ready to help them get where they need to be.
Is there a best practice?
Best practice is to sort of wean them off and have them be more independent toward the middle of the year. Kids think they're big anyway. It gives them that sense of "I can do it by myself." ...
Is there anything else you want parents to do or not do?
Well, children take on the attitude and the excitement of their parents. And if the parent is excited about school, then they're going to be excited about school.
And if they're not?
Then the children are probably going to be a little bit hesitant and may not be able to transition as well.
Do you have one of those boo-hoo breakfasts?
Oh yes. Absolutely.
What kinds of things do you tell the parents who attend that?
Basically, our boo-hoo breakfast is not just boo-hoo. It's boo-hoo and yahoo. ... We have some parents who this is their first child there, and they are upset because their baby is growing up. And we have other parents here who are saying, "Yahoo! Summer is over and we're ready for them to do what they need to do at school." Usually it's a mingling session, and the parents that have been here a while talk to those and just reassure them that it is a good place to be. ...
So the first day of school is otherwise just a regular day?
We start with instruction right away, the first day.
And do kids step into that OK?
Absolutely. Research shows that when you start on a regular routine at the very beginning, it's much easier for the children to get used to that routine.
Any other things you advise kids, rather than their parents?
They have to realize that their teachers are looking forward to seeing them with a big, happy smile on. And the teachers want to make it the best year ever.
But this is also serious business.
Absolutely, it's serious business. But being serious does not have to be drab.