A New Grade, A Fresh Start [Back to School]

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5 Pieces of Advice to Improve the School Year

Whether a child is starting school for the first time or returning to the classroom as a senior student, heading “back to school” is the perfect time to start fresh and begin the year in the right mindset.
We asked people in all areas of Lynchburg City Schools to give their best piece of advice to students of all ages.


“Be involved as much as you can.”

Marcy Farris sent her son, Ben, off to school for the first time in the fall of 2016. She said during the transition process, she made sure to go to all the orientations she could and ask every question possible. “If you have questions, ask them,” she says. “Chances are someone else is wondering the same thing.” In fact, many times after a meeting she would have several parents come up to her and thank her for asking the questions they were too scared to voice.
Farris said her son’s school, Bedford Hills Elementary, was always supportive and never made her feel as if the question was too small or insignificant. If they didn’t know the answer, they were willing to find out. She felt much more prepared this year as Ben returned for his second year. Now that she has a year of the school routine under her belt, she plans on being involved as much as her schedule will allow her.


“Tell your children what to expect.”

As the principal of Dearington Elementary School, Daniel Rule is no stranger to the back-to-school mindset. However, this year is a little bit different, as his oldest headed off to Kindergarten this fall. “A lot of time, children are excited to go to school, but that excitement fades when they realize they have to keep coming back day after day for years and years,” says Rule.
Get them interested in meeting new friends and learning new things. For example, in the weeks leading up to the first day, Rule gave his child regular “Kindergarten tests” by asking him to perform tasks such as showering by himself or pouring milk. “It really gets him excited about things,” he says.
Rule’s final piece of advice is to make sure your child knows their bus number. While the teachers will know it, it’s helpful if the child knows what number to look for and has it written down somewhere they can easily check, such as on their backpack.


“Every new year is a chance to start fresh.”

“Often, students get into their heads that just because they had a bad year or weren’t a good student last year, that this year is going to be the same,” says Catherine Bragg, eighth grade English teacher at Dunbar Middle School.
However, Bragg doesn’t let this attitude stay around for very long in her classroom. On the first day of school, she lets her students know they can start fresh if they would like, giving them a chance to do better. “My eighth graders are still trying to decide if they want to participate in school or not, so I try to encourage them as much as I can,” Bragg says.
In the classroom, Bragg spreads this idea to daily life as well. She reminds students that just because they were grumpy or tired the day before doesn’t mean they can’t do well in the present. She encourages parents to utilize this mentality at home and has seen it turn student
mindsets around.


“Don’t be afraid to reach out to teachers and peers about anything you need help with.”

Mary Kate Comerford is a rising senior at Heritage High School. “When starting a new year and a new grade, it’s a big change and adjustment,” she says. Comerford says she has a lot of questions at the start of each year and utilizes those around her for answers.
Normally, she asks upperclassmen about teachers—what to expect about their personality and workload. However, last year she had a history teacher who was new to the school. Since none of her peers could offer any information, Comerford went straight to the teacher to get answers. The teacher responded by laying out all the expectations for the year, a timeline Comerford could use to anticipate assignments, and guidelines for assignments. Comerford says, “Reaching out to her made me more comfortable. I didn’t have to go in blind.”


“Stay on top of your grades.”

As the director of Heritage High School’s Future Center, Leidra McQueen helps prepare high school students for college. “Your GPA starts ticking on day one of high school, and it’s important for students not to let it slip,” she says. The clock starts even earlier for those who take high school classes while still in middle school. Even though GPAs carry over from year to year, McQueen says each year is still an opportunity to start fresh and recommit to doing well.
For those who struggle with a low GPA, assistance is available. Both E.C. Glass and Heritage high schools offer assistance through Beacon of Hope. The two Future Centers offer tutoring, SAT and ACT prep courses, financial aid assistance and college admission guidance.

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