Back to School Essentials {Notes From a Former Teacher}


I taught high school for nearly nine years, as well as early elementary. As we prepare for back to school season (which seems crazy!), I would encourage you to think about some of the not-so-common back to school essentials your child needs for success in the upcoming school year. I am not talking about the latest trendy backpack or coolest new sneakers. I am talking about what your child needs mentally and emotionally to be confident and prepared.

back to school

First, let’s talk about prioritization and organization.

Certainly, these two things come way easier to certain kids than others. No matter what your child’s age – kindergarten through senior year – these two things are important to make part of your kiddo’s routine. Talk through with your kids what the morning and afternoon/evening routine will and should look like. The older your child is and more naturally apt they are to being organized, the less you will have to help set the stage for this as the new school year starts. Some kiddos need more support and encouragement to figure out what needs done when and in what order – and that’s okay!

Next, help your child to understand empathy.

While this may sound like a no-brainer, it never hurts to have a discussion with your kids about how important it is to see and feel things from others’ perspectives. As a teacher, it was always very easy to spot the kids who had high emotional intelligence. These kids were understanding, kind, and their peers respected them for it. This will eventually foster strong communication skills and help your child to interact and work effectively with a variety of people.

Resilience is another trait that your child needs to be successful this upcoming school year.

Though it is not practical to assume that through a simple conversation you can make your child resilient, it is something to keep in mind as your child encounters various situations with peers and teachers throughout the school year. If your child complains or has an issue with a particular grade, project, seating arrangement, etc., encourage your child to speak to the teacher on their own prior to you getting involved. Believe me, I get as a parent that we want to do all we can to mitigate conflict and protect our children. But I can assure you, encouraging your child to speak for themselves with teachers and school personnel will prove valuable as they start to take a stake in their own education. Collaboration and project-based learning are essential to the curriculum at any age right now because it puts the responsibility on the student to take ownership of their learning. These learning models require resilience as students face challenges and criticism.

Self-care for the kids is also a KEY element in your child’s success.

What does this look like? For your teenagers, this may mean having a smoothie and a nap after school before tackling homework because they worked their part-time job the night before. For your elementary kiddos, this may mean having a snack and an hour of outside playtime prior to starting homework. Downtime and playtime are still very important to your child’s daily routine and development.

Lastly, remind your kiddo that the start of a new school year is a chance to wipe the slate clean; only they are in control of who they want to be, who they want to eventually become, and how they will get there. This is a new school year and a chance to start fresh. Remember that your child’s education requires a team of support, and you as a parent are one of the key coaches.