Getting Back on Track for a New School Year!
by Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant /

No adult, especially a professional, likes to be told over and over what to do, or be reminded of it. In my previous Guidance Counseling Blog, I wholeheartedly applaud and encourage the many teachers in Belize who, of their own accord, are now working enthusiastically to spread the spark of the new movement for much-needed school reform throughout our jewel of a country. We parents admire each of you, teachers in Belize, for recommitting yourselves to the Education process, and for making every effort to strengthen your daily commitments to help your many students learn! In this month’s Blog, I have neither messages nor reminders to shout from my soap box, but merely wish to offer a few helpful hints to students and teachers as they begin the countdown to another good and productive school year.

Summer vacations, for students at all levels throughout Primary and Secondary schools in Belize, are almost over. For most of the students who have been on 2 months vacation, getting back on track and into a regular school routine will not be easy; neither will it automatically happen from one day to the next. Nevertheless, many psychologists strongly recommend that, in order to maintain good physical and mental health, we should all maintain some form of daily routine. So, for now, let’s not concern ourselves with whether Belize is a Nation at Risk, or with trying to find out who is responsible or accountable for this year’s very low PSE proficiency scores. Instead, let’s make every effort to help our students and teachers try to get back into a school routine, and be totally ready for the new 2013/2014 school year that’s about to start.

Getting back into routine after a long vacation can be almost as daunting and challenging as trying to put a 1,000 piece puzzle together! However, to complete the puzzle we can start simply with the outside border, four corner pieces first, then we complete all four sides or edges – one piece at a time; then, slowly but surely, we work to put the inside of the puzzle fully together. By matching colors and shapes we are guided to where each piece of the puzzle needs to go. To get back into a school routine, after being on a vacation with very little routine, we should start slowly, before school even starts, and try to put the school routine back, “one piece at a time”. The border (straight edges) of the puzzle can be compared to our time at school everyday – that schedule is always fairly constant, with few changes everyday, and will fall into place quickly. Our time away from school (especially when we have deadlines and limited time to complete homework) is what is much harder to commit to a routine; that commitment can be compared to completing or putting together the inside of the giant puzzle. As with all routines, though, after the first, second and third hesitant (slow) steps, the other steps will follow easier; likewise, (school) routines get set one day at a time. Trying to match the inside puzzle pieces of like colors and shapes can be compared to setting aside specific times to complete homework everyday, i.e. right after supper/tea everyday. Trying to put together a puzzle, while watching T.V., conversing, talking on the(cell) phone etc. is never successful. Likewise, if we try to complete homework assignments while concentrating on many other activities we will not be successful. Homework will require total concentration and focus! How about, starting today, try to complete one small chore every night before going to bed? Now is the time for students to get back on firm footing, not during the turbulent first weeks of school, when they will have to deal with new teachers, new classes, and perhaps new schools.

Physically, parents could also help to steer students back into a school routine by starting from now to make every effort to re-establish the family’s normal eating habits, i.e. serve/eat breakfast, lunch (which we refer to as dinner in Belize), and supper (also called tea in Belize) at regular times everyday. Moreover, in order to wake up “rested and ready for school” everyday, students should get a full night’s sleep, not just 2 or 3 hours. From today onward, students could start to practice going to sleep each night at regular bedtimes in order to get a full night’s sleep, Mondays to Fridays. In this area, parents could help younger students by making sure that they get back into that routine. Likewise, keeping healthy sleeping habits also applies to teachers and school administrators.

Above all else, students of all ages (in Belize and throughout the world) need constant motivation, not only to complete their daily homework and/or class projects or reports, but to want to keep learning everyday, and not just “give up” when they feel they cannot handle anymore schoolwork. Of course, while students are in school, Mondays to Fridays, teachers and other professional educators are charged with taking on the daunting responsibility of providing their students with constant motivation. However, when students are not in school, who/what motivates them? Parents, whether you have a formal academic education or not, you can definitely try to provide your children with the motivation to want to “keep learning” everyday. You can set the example for your children, especially the younger ones, to accept, confront, and overcome challenges. Young students will readily emulate parents who always try to plan ahead, who practice daily routines such as eating together and at regular times, who go to sleep at regular times, and who don’t give up at the first difficult challenge that may come their way.

May this new school year be a good, successful, and productive one for all teachers and students in Belize!