(Photo by Leonna Heuring, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Many area students head back to school this week, and along with the first day of school comes open houses.
Local educators encourage parents to take time to meet their child's teacher and get a better understanding of what lies ahead for their children in the coming school year.
Scott County Central Schools Superintendent Dr. Joby Holland. said open houses provide an opportunity for parents, teachers and students to start the new year on the same page.
"Parents can get idea of what teacher's expectations are. It creates a common bond and allows you to get to know one another," Holland said.
Scott County Central Schools begins the new school year Aug. 21 with an open house and barbecue that night.
"As things arise in the school year on both sides-- which you will have with 174 days of a school year -- it helps to know people you can speak to when you have a question," Holland said.
Parents and community members are invited to visit schools and tour the facilities in the New Madrid County R-1 School District which begins the year on Friday. Open houses are scheduled at the high school, middle school and three elementary schools where the faculty and administration will be available to answer any questions concerning class schedules and policies for the upcoming school year.
"The key to a child's success is keeping the communication open with the school and the home," said New Madrid County R-1 Superintendent Bill Nance. "It's imperative that parents stay involved in their child's education process."
Anytime there's a question regarding what the child is doing or requirements in a school setting, Nance said he encourages all parents to contact the school to visit with the administrator or teachers.
Christine Ray, Sikeston Career and Technology Center guidance counselor, said there are several simple things parents can to do to help their children have a successful year.
"Getting enough sleep is important," Ray said. "Make them get eight to 10 hours of sleep a night," Ray said.
Students should eat breakfast, Ray said.
"Many core classes are the first of the day, and if they don't eat breakfast, their minds aren't working properly," Ray said.
Know students will have homework so if a child, especially an older one, never has homework, a parent should be suspicious, Ray said.
Also sign up for any online communication between school and parents. For example, Sikeston has a parent portal that parents can sign up for at open houses. The Web site allows parents to check their children's assignments, grades and school announcements.
And make sure they're not getting too much time with electronics like computers, TVs and the cell phone."
Cell phones are not allowed at school, Ray said. If a teacher sees or hears a phone, they can be confiscated, she said.
Here are some tips for making the most of the back-to-school/open house night:
-- For younger children, ask how reading is taught, says Nina Senatore, an assistant professor of education at Simmons College. Where does spelling fit in? What is the homework policy?
''Every school will say they have an amazing reading program,'' says Senatore. ''What exactly does that mean?''
-- Find out how the school accommodates different math and reading levels. In middle and high school, ask how students are placed in advanced classes.
''Certain kids work faster than others,'' says Ahn Steininger, a mother of three and co-founder of miniMasters, a cultural learning center in New York. ''Some kids need a little help. How do they deal with that?''
-- Ask about the extras. Besides the normal curriculum, how much emphasis is placed on the foreign languages, art, music and physical education?
-- Be sure to ask about social development. In what ways are children encouraged to get to know each other and work together as a team?
''Is there a lot of emphasis placed on development of the person as a human being -- not just the academics?'' says Steininger. ''Being a good person?''
-- Find out what the major projects are, such as research papers and book reports, and get a general idea of when they are due, says Michelle Ridgway, who teaches reading at Jehue Middle School in Colton, Calif. ''Those are major projects that are going to take some resources and some time,'' she says.
-- Ask how you can help your child succeed. For example, are there certain materials you should have at home?
-- Be sure to ask about the best way to communicate with the teacher, says Senatore, whether e-mail, phone or sending a note with your child. For middle and high school students, who have several teachers, she suggests bringing a folder to hold handouts and making sure parents have each teacher's name and contact information.
-- Ask about progress reports. ''What type of communication about academic progress will I receive from you?'' says Ridgway. ''I want to know as soon as possible if my child is struggling or not turning in assignments.''
-- Inquire about how you will be notified in case of an emergency, says Steininger. Will the teacher call you or is there a telephone tree where one parent calls another?
-- Back-to-School Night doesn't lend itself to networking with other parents, but Senatore says parents should bring some business cards and try to exchange information. You may need them for homework emergencies, or to double-check field trips or special days.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.