Penndale Middle School
Counselor Connection - August/September Issue
Parents - what YOU need to know for your child's first day of school
At the beginning of the year, students are concerned about what to wear, what their friends are doing, and getting used to a new schedule. They're not thinking about some of the more important, but less exciting issues such as the school attendance policy.
Be proactive: learn about the following and share the most important and pertinent information with your child. Links are included specific to our school:
- School Calendar: shows when grading periods begin and end, when parent-teacher conferences are scheduled, and when school is closed for holidays and vacations. Write all of these dates on your calendar at home.
- Attendance Policy: know what the attendance and tardy policies are. You will also need to know what to do when your child is ill, going to be late, or needs to leave early for an appointment.
- Middle School Handbook: review the rules regarding student conduct and behavior, dress code, cell phone policy, rules regarding medications, etc.
- Class Schedule: check your child's schedule to make sure he/she is in the correct classes. If you ever feel that a course is too difficult or "not right" for your child, talk to their counselor.
- Testing: know what standardized test[s] your child will be taking, when these tests will be given, and how your child should prepare.
- Extra-Curricular Activities and Clubs: students who participate in school activities generally enjoy school more and get better grades. Research what activities interest your child and encourage them to get involved.
- School Counselor: counselors monitor student progress and help students figure out how to deal with difficult situations. Make sure your child knows who their counselor is and how to go about making an appointment.
Check Home Access Center for information online - teachers post student grades and homework assignments online, and email is often the preferred way of communicating with teachers. Be sure to check the Penndale website regularly for information and updates.
My child is starting Middle School - how can I help?
Common Student Concerns
Changing Classes - Being Late to Class - Getting Lost - Having someone to sit with at lunch - Opening their locker - Dressing for PE - Making New Friends - Being teased or bullied - Remembering their schedule - Classes that are challenging - More Homework
While most students are excited about starting middle school, many are also a little apprehensive. Take time to sit down with your child and talk about any concerns he/she may have.
Communication is Key
Keeping the lines of communication open those first few weeks is particularly important. Here are some tips to help you do that.
- Ask open-ended questions: Instead of "how was school," say "What are you studying in science?" "What's that book about?" or "What did you have for lunch?"
- Be available to listen: Timing is important. Be available to listen when your child wants to talk. Look for times when he/she is most likely to be open to conversation [when you're fixing dinner, driving in the car, before bed, etc.]
- Recognize your child's concerns: Something that may seem like a small thing to you could be a big thing to your middle schooler. If your child has a concern or problem, listen attentively, and help him/her figure out how to deal with it and move forward.
- Pay attention to nonverbal communication: Children aren't always able to put into words the things they need you to know. It is important to pay attention to your child's body language, eating and sleeping patterns, moods, and school performance. These can be good indicators of how things are going at school and with friends.
Develop A Plan For Success
- Purchase school supplies: make sure your child has the tools he/she needs. In addition to paper, pens and pencils, students generally need folder, notebooks, a calculator, assignment book, backpack, etc.
- Provide a place to study: it should be quiet, well-lit and comfortable. This area should have a surface for writing and be equipped with paper, pencils, etc.
- Insist on good attendance: your child needs to be in school on time every day unless he/she is ill. Attendance is the #1 school success factor!
- Develop routines: having a good morning and nighttime routine makes everyone's day run much smoother. Help your child establish routines that include getting up early enough to eat breakfast, and getting to bed at a reasonable time.
- Monitor technology use: be aware of how, and for what purposes, your child is using his/her cell phone, laptop, tablet, and/or home computer. Set limits and guidelines. Limits much include turning off all cell phones during dinner, having all phones docked in a common place at 9 pm, and/or making a computer with internet access available only in a common area.
- Set goals: at the beginning of the year, help your child set some academic goals. Together you might determine what grade he/she should realistically be able to earn in each course that marking period, or you might focus more on study habits [e.g. have all homework completed by 8:30 each night].
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle: with all of the changes your child may be going through, it's important that they eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. Have nutritious food at home, make sure that your child gets some exercise or does something physical on a regular basis, and insist on a reasonable bedtime.
Monitor Early Grades - Check graded homework, quizzes, and tests to make sure your child is getting off to a good start in all of his/her classes. If you have a concern about your child's progress in a class, contact the teacher.
Help Your Child Get Organized
- Student Planner - encourage your child to take his/her planner to every class and use it to record assignments, tests, quizzes, and anything else he/she needs to remember.
- Three-Ring Notebooks - using a three-ring notebook with tabs for different classes is a great way to keep notes organized. Handouts can easily be inserted, and if your child misses a class, he/she can copy someone else's notes and insert them where they belong.
- Folders - purchase a different colored pocket folder for each class. Encourage your child to use these folders for current assignments, returned assignments, and graded tests.
- Home File - have a place at home to store anything your child wants to keep or may need later - returned tests, essays, reports, artwork, etc. [Returned tests may help with preparation for future tests.]
- Phone Numbers - make sure your child has a phone number for at least one other student in each class. If your child is absent or has a question, he/she will have someone to call.
- Backpack/Locker - encourage your child to clean out his/her backpack and locker regularly. Remind your child that all papers should be put in a notebook or folder - never stuck loose in a book, locker or backpack.
- Teacher Websites - have your child bookmark teacher websites and/or progress books to make it easy to check grades.
Time Management Tips
With good time management, students have less stress and more free time. They also feel more in control of their lives.
- Use Time in School - encourage your child to use any free time in school to get started on homework - he/she will have a lot less to do at night.
- Create a Study Plan - some students want to get their homework done right after school; others want to take a break and do it later. Help your child determine the best time to do homework and help create a study plan. For example, doing homework right after dinner [before starting any other activity] often works well. The important thing is that your child start on their homework early.
Help Develop Good Student Habits
- Help organize and prioritize homework: before starting on homework, have your child decide exactly what needs to be done, and the order is which he/she is going to do it. Make sure there's enough time for the things that are the most important. Encourage your child to do difficult assignments first, while he/she is still fresh and alert.
- Emphasize the importance of keeping up: once students get behind, it can be hard to catch up. Encourage your child to keep up on homework and reading assignments, and to start projects early.
- Help break down large assignments: large assignments can seem overwhelming and your child may need help figuring out where to begin. Show your child how to break large assignments and projects down into smaller, more manageable tasks.
- If your child has a question or problem... encourage your child to talk to the teacher either before or after class whenever he/she has a question or problem. Teachers are generally happy to help, but students need to let their teachers know they need it.
- If your child is not doing his/her homework... first make sure the homework isn't too difficult, or that there isn't some problem with the class. You then need to come up with a plan in which the completion of the homework becomes your child's responsibility.
- Be available to help - but don't do the work. All students need encouragement and support, and most middle school students need a little extra help from time to time. Be available to help if your child gets stuck, or if he/she needs someone to look over an essay, listen to a speech, or help review for a test. Don't give more help than is wanted, and don't do the work yourself. If something doesn't get done, don't come to the rescue. If you do, your child won't feel the need to be responsible in the future.
Monitor Progress - it's very important for middle school students to be successful in their classes, and for them to feel competent and capable. If you see your child struggling in a class or spending an excessive amount of time on homework, contact the teacher and discuss your concerns.
The Social Scene
- Encourage after-school activities: extra-curricular activities are a great way for students to meet other students with similar interests. Being part of a team, club, or group also gives students a sense of belonging.
- Build self-esteem: students with a positive self image are less influenced by peer pressure and less affected by social concerns. Foster your child's strengths through family activities, developing his/her interests and skills, church activities, volunteering, etc. Students who have a broad social network develop more self confidence and generally aren't as sensitive to middle school drama.
- Expect friendship shifts: in middle school, friendships often shift and change - a best friend in elementary school may now have new interests and be making new friends. Encourage your child to keep his/her "old friends," and to work on making new ones.
- Discuss bullying: bullying can sometimes be a problem in middle school. If your child is concerned about bullying, encourage him/her to stand tall, walk confidently, and use body language that shows self-confidence. [Bullies tend to target students who are passive or quiet.] If your child ever mentions anything about being harassed or bullied in school or online, find out exactly what has happened, and talk about how to best deal with the situation. You may also want to discuss what's happened with your child's counselor or principal.
- Promote independence: If your middle schooler has a question or problem, try to help your child to figure out how to take care of it on his/her own. Being able to get their questions answered and their problems resolved helps students gain confidence and give them a sense of empowerment. You want your child to become more independent and self sufficient; however, it's important for your child to know that you are always available if he/she ever needs your help.
Penndale School Counselor Staff
[7th grade A-R] Mr. Nate Harvey firstname.lastname@example.org
[8th grade A-R] Mr. Chris Joy email@example.com
[9th grade A-R] Mr. Mike Flynn firstname.lastname@example.org
[7-8-9 S-Z] Mrs. Susan Reichwein email@example.com
Mrs. Moore to Mr. Harvey and Mr. Flynn firstname.lastname@example.org 215-853-1714
Mrs. Lynam to Mr. Joy and Mrs. Reichwein email@example.com 215-853-1713