Hitting the books

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Tips on getting your child on track after the long summer break.

Principal Michael Egan with Students from La Salle College Bankstown.

One of the most important tasks for teachers after the summer break is helping their students ease back into a learning routine again. Harmless, and some not so harmless, habits developed over the summer need attention to ensure success at school.

The beauty of each new year is the opportunity it brings for a fresh start.

Look After the Body

  • As sitting in a classroom after the holidays is an alien act, make sure to break it up with regular, orderly and fun breaks to stretch, breathe and most importantly correct posture. Running around, sitting on your legs, swinging on chairs, lounging on the floor: all things to chip away at with gentle reminders.
  • If clothes no longer fit, this needs to be addressed. It’s impossible to focus when bursting out of a uniform.
  • Fresh air is essential. Shut up the room and pump up the AC when the temperature or smoke outside demands it but at all other times, especially the start of the day, open up the windows and let the fresh air in.

    The students from Arncliffe’s St Francis Xavier's Catholic Primary School are hoping to be selected as a winner of the Banner Competition and win a $100 gift card from Smiggle and a family pass for 2 adults and up to 3 children to the VIP area for the opening night of the Lights of Christmas at St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
    One of the most important tasks for teachers after the summer break is helping their students ease back into a learning routine again Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Look After the Mind

  • Pay attention to the task you are asking them to do. Students are generally fresh, keen and ready to engage in the rich variety of tasks you may choose for them but simply sitting and listening to you talking endlessly is not one of them.
  • A sure sign tasks are not engaging is when the questions roll in about whether or not something is for assessment. Tasks should be frequent, achievable and feedback given always.
  • Challenge bad language constantly. Blame the malls, the beach, social media or a lack of interaction with adults, the causes are endless and the cure is in the challenge. Schools need civility and decorum to support a good learning routine.

Look After the Spirit

  • Since the advent of schooling for the masses over 300 years ago, teachers have been refining routines that promote good order and learning. The patron saint of teachers, St John Baptist de La Salle, collected many pearls of wisdom in his Conduct of Schools. He urged his teachers to give each child a responsibility in the room: windows, the board, the lights, the plants, all the things that make the day and the room run well.
  • Seat students thoughtfully with a mind to getting back into routine, where a child has a weakness sit them with strength. A fresh start and the opportunity to make a new friend can work well at this time.
  • Be affirming and offer positive reinforcement.

Work with Parents

  • Help parents with access to good information. There is a new government back-to-school website https://my.education.nsw.gov.au/public-schools/back-to-school called the Back to School Hub . It is full of good ideas and simple checklists for all ages and settings and a broad range of topics from food to behaviour and online safety.
  • Address sleep issues quickly. All the research points to most school students simply not getting enough sleep and what they do get being adversely affected by screen time before sleep. Lack of sleep impacts body, mind and spirit of students and in my mind is the single most critical influence on getting in to a good learning routine.

Michael Egan Mr Michael Egan has worked in Catholic education for over 35 years and has been Principal of La Salle Catholic College in Bankstown since 2013. He is President of the NSW Association of Catholic School Principals (ACSP) and a Director of the Lasallian Mission Council of Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea.