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Back to School Advice from Two Local Educators

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

The school year from 2020-2021 was tough for parents, teachers, and children. Most kids spent most of the year studying remotely and attending lessons in virtual classrooms via desktops and tablets because of COVID-19.

Not being able to attend school physically for several months has left many students disoriented and that is likely to make settling into the next school year particularly difficult and daunting.

Yello asked two local educators, Voghn Tatem and Kwame Dowridge, to provide some practical ‘back to school’ tips for parents and children as they adapt to the ‘new normal’.

Voghn Tatem – Find the right balance

Technology and education have not meshed well for various reasons in Barbados, even though they really should have. However, now that in some instances we cannot have teaching and learning without some sort of technological device, parents and children need to understand how to embrace one without neglecting the other.

Here are three things to consider, now that the school year is about to start, regarding the use of technology and schoolwork:

Mindful use of technology

There are so many apps on our devices that can distract us from our goals for the day, but, on the other hand, there are equally as many apps that can help us accomplish tasks more efficiently. Therefore, here are some apps that I suggest every child should have on their devices:

  1. A dictionary – along with the opportunity to look up a challenging word, which may be a lot easier with the app than it is with the book itself, the right dictionary app may have features such as ‘words of the day’. This assists in expanding vocabularies or provides direct links to examples in picture or video format, as well as synonyms and antonyms if necessary.

  2. A calculator – an easily accessible calculator is always good to have.

  3. A reminder app – cultivating a sense of responsibility in a child is important. A reminder app helps a child consider their tasks for the day and the times they would like to start and finish them. Proper scheduling gives them the chance to have fun while still making their TikTok videos or playing Roblox until that notification pops up telling them it is time to practice their subject. The right reminder app may also allow parents to set and monitor their children’s tasks.

Device care

Maintenance of devices is also very important.

  1. First, whether it is a cellphone, a tablet, or a laptop, ensure that it is well protected with a suitable case, sleeve, or bag because the last thing you need is a cracked screen when using Google Classroom.

  2. Devices tend to respond slowly when too many apps are loaded on them or running simultaneously. If you know that your device is one you use for school, consider cutting back on unnecessary apps, especially during the school term, to have the best learning experience.

  3. Laptops, in particular, tend to overheat and slow down, which can be very frustrating. The aim is to have your device working as long as possible; make sure the laptop has proper ventilation by ensuring that the airways that let the air escape aren’t blocked. Do not place your laptop in its bag while it is still turned on.

Practice, practice, practice

Teachers often say, “a student always has homework.” Learning is an ongoing process, so when the bell rings, and your child has made it safely back home, the responsibility turns to the family to ensure that what a child has been taught at school is retained. The only way to do that is to encourage them to practice what they have learned so far.

  1. Keep an exercise book dedicated to home practice which is independent of homework set by the teacher. Parents or guardians should know what topics are being taught at school to assist at home.

  2. The internet has resources, such as worksheets, that can be helpful during home practice. Many of them are free, while some sites offer premium packages that allow access to more content. Many teachers are also happy to provide worksheets.

  3. Encourage your child to practice independently as well. Ask them to think about the area they find challenging at school, and what they need to do to improve, so they can be better prepared the next time it comes up in class. Once again, children can install some apps on devices to reinforce what they were taught. There are also a lot of videos on YouTube that do the same.

Math A+ Academy - Advice for parents and children

My first advice for parents is view your child’s notebook. I’ve realised that some children don’t care for writing notes in class, they will just write what they think they need to, instead of everything on the board that has been taught.

So, I advise parents to view notebooks and class notes every day, or at least every week, because that will give you some insight into whether the child is paying attention and taking in the lesson. It will also show you if the child is skipping classes because you’ll notice if there are no Math notes in the book when they had a Math class that day.

Secondly, ask your child how their day was and get details. If you ask this on a regular basis you will know when there is something wrong from early on. You’ll also know then from the child’s attitude and demeanor, and how they carry themselves when they come home, whether something has happened, for instance, if they are being bullied.

If a child is constantly telling you about their day and sharing everything, on the day when they don’t, you will know that something is wrong, and you can investigate.

Thirdly, get your child extra lessons as early as possible. Parents usually know if their child has a problem with English or Math from Class 1, so don’t wait until Class 4 to do something about it. Don’t leave them to struggle.

My advice for children, especially the ones moving up to secondary school, is start your homework the same afternoon. Try your best to have some discipline and complete all your work by a Friday afternoon, and then you can have the rest of the weekend for yourself.

Finally, get to class on time. Sometimes getting to class on time is the key to passing exams because a lot of the time teachers will make important points at the beginning of class. So, if you are even just 10 minutes late, you will miss vital information.

Kwame can be contacted at the Math A+ Academy.

Yello wishes students, parents, and teachers all the best for the new school year.

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