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May Your Family Catch Chalk Dust Fever

Chalk Dust Fever

Every August for many years, I had chalk dust fever for which no medication was available. As a young student, I loved school and was excited to learn new things. As a teenager living in the country on a farm, I was overjoyed to begin a new school year to get out of the tobacco patch and hang out with my friends. I had mixed feelings during those college years. As I recall, my desire to learn had more to do with the time of day that the class was taught than the subject matter. Beginning a new school year has always been an exciting time for me! This excitement has been labeled Chalk Dust Fever.

The August anticipated fever consumed me, as I arrived at my first teaching assignment and welcomed thirty-two first and second graders. Yes, in the same classroom and no educational assistant. In addition to being the sole classroom teacher, I was the art teacher, the music teacher (poor students), the librarian, and the physical education teacher. There were very few textbooks in the room but I was armed with notebooks from methods classes and student teaching. As I looked at the tears in the big eyed first graders, I realized that many had never been away from their mothers. A few of the first graders had attended a private pre-school and a few had been left with a baby sitter occasionally. (Public kindergarten was several years in the future.) After a few weeks, I was in love with MY students and teaching.

The August chalk dust fever, the love for students and love of teaching continued for me long after chalk boards were replaced by white boards. In fact, it even continued into the smart board era. Today, this white-haired great grandmother is grateful for the memories of all those years of chalk dust fever. My hope is that families, teachers, and students beginning a new school year experience chalk dust fever.

As summer comes to an end, I am reminded that it is time to get back on a schedule which includes writing these blog articles. I have been retired for many years but I still experience a little August chalk dust fever. I'm sadden by the conversations centered around present day education. I'm especially sad to think about the disappearance of chalk dust fever. As I reflect on the statements about how different schools are today, I feel that some things never change. I'll share a few with you!

Eight Tips for a Successful School Year

Beginning a new school year is a major milestone for all students. It is the place away from home where they face their greatest challenges. It doesn’t matter if your child loves school and has the anticipated August fever or if he/she dislikes school and has an anticipated tummy ache due to the new uncomfortable surroundings, there are things we can do at home to make the school year more successful.

Establish supportive at home routines. A positive attitude in body language as well as words is important. You will like some teachers better than others and that’s acceptable. Be careful about rolling the eyes when you hear the teacher’s name! (I’ve been there, I am a parent.) Listen encourage, and support your child. One routine that is consistently linked to school success is family dinners where family members share about their day.

1. Get Organized I am not fond of the word organized, probably because no one ever called me organized. But children need organization, they thrive on routine. A familiar routine provides comfort and security. Establish a morning routine to prepare for the day. If possible, start the day without someone getting mad. (I know that’s hard.)

2. Monitor Your Child’s Daily Work Establish a place that your child is to place notes from school, take time to look at those daily, sign and return if a signature is required. You, your child, and the teacher will be happier if you do it promptly. Check your child’s back backpack to help monitor homework or check your child’s on-line school account daily for homework assignments.

3. Communicate with Your Child’s Teacher Regularly This doesn’t mean call the teacher every night. Establish a line of communication with the teacher. Your child will have a more successful school year if the parent (s) and the teacher are partners in your child’s learning.

4. Set Aside a Time for Homework Have an established routine for homework. This seems to be easier during in week than the week-end. Those long-term assignments will not end up in tears and raised voices if you set a reminder a few days prior. The week-end might be a good time to work on projects and long range assignments.

Learning is not a competitive sport. Grades are important but try not to over-focus on grades. Celebrate your child’s success, his/her gifts, and talents. (I hope my children are not reading this.)

5. After School Activities Your family has to find the right balance for you. It is important to support and encourage your child’s interests and hobbies but maintaining a balance seems to be the key. As adults we are often harried, distracted, and over-worked; avoid the temptation to get your child over involved.

6. Set Rules for Screen Time These restrictions include T.V., computer, video games, and cell phones. Healthy relationships are not formed with monitors but with human interaction. The teacher in me wants to go on and on, but enough said, limit screen time.

7. Make Optimum use of Parent/Child Time Use the time spent in the car to and from activities in conversation with your child. Have a no- cellphone rule, for both of you, during these times. Tune in to your child. They will complain at first but you may notice that your child actually talks to you.

8. Take Care of Yourself Adopt the airline philosophy, “If traveling with a child put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then on the child.” We as parents are better able to care for our children when we are healthy and experience reduced stress. Ask for help, no one can be a super-parent all the time. Have fun as a family.

I hope your child has chalk dust fever this August! Good luck, I hope this is a great school year for you!

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