Oakland Press: Make wise choices for a successful school year

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Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

School soon will be back in session. This can be welcome news both to parents and their children. For students, going back to school means catching up with old friends and adjusting to the routine of getting up earlier and doing homework.

There are some important things we all should remember for the new school year.

The first priority — for parents, students and drivers — is that our students make it safely to and from school.

For kids riding the bus there are three main points to remember: 1) Wait until the bus has come to a complete stop and the doors are open before stepping into the roadway; 2) never put your head, arms or hands out of the bus window; and 3) when crossing the street, STOP, look left, then right and then left again before crossing.

For all drivers, remember two critical rules when around a school bus: 1) If the yellow overhead lights are flashing, be prepared to stop; and 2) if the red lights are flashing, STOP, and remain stopped until the red flashing lights are turned off and the school bus begins moving.

Once safety has been established, children are ready to learn.

You may be surprised to learn that neither a family’s income nor social status is the most accurate predictor of how well a student does in school. Rather, success depends on other factors in the home. First, parents must create a home environment that encourages learning. Second, they should communicate high, yet reasonable, expectations for their children’s achievement and future careers. And finally, parents need to be involved in their children’s education at school and in the community.

If you are the parent of an elementary school student, talk frequently to your child’s teacher. Ask about your child’s progress and ask for ideas on what you can do to assist in ensuring your child’s success. Read to your child every day, or have your child read to you.

If you are the parent of an older student, encourage your child to get involved in extracurricular activities (sports, music, drama, and many others). Make sure you attend the events! Support mentoring, career exploration and career shadowing. Use technology resources to monitor your child’s grades and assignments.

I urge all parents in the 15th District to try to make time to help and support their young students. For further assistance in this area, the Michigan Department of Education has many useful resources available on its website at www.michigan.gov/mde. The “Parent Engagement” section offers numerous links and information that can be tremendously helpful.

Ensure your child gets plenty of sleep, arrives to school on time, completes homework and eats healthy meals. Build up your child’s self-confidence with positive reinforcement and encouragement. These foundations are as essential as anything else in ensuring a child’s academic success.

Keep in mind that the choices that we as parents make — as well as the ones our kids make — are the most important factors in determining success in school. So make the right choices, and have a fantastic school year!

This column first appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.