Beat the Back-to-School Jitters

By Steph Rodriguez

Ever since she was a little girl, Jane Steinkamp knew that she wanted to become a teacher.
She remembers helping her father, an English and German teacher at Stagg High School in Stockton, put up bulletin boards inside his classroom in preparation for the first day of school. Like her father, Jane went on to teach high school English. In the years that followed, she eventually took on the title of Principal, and today is the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for the San Joaquin County Office of Education.

Just as teachers prepare for the upcoming school year, Jane (who’s also a mother of two) says there are many helpful practices that students and their parents can adopt in order to beat those first-day jitters. She shares her favorite tips with San Joaquin Magazine to ensure every student is back-to-school ready this year. 

Rise and shine
School is hard enough, but getting a child to go to bed early and wake up even earlier is arguably more of a challenge. Jane suggests that you begin to modify your child’s sleep schedule two to three weeks before the first day of school—by setting a bedtime 15-20 minutes earlier than usual. A week before school is back in session, go to bed and wake up with your child as you would during the school year.

Back to school
Familiarize your student with their new surroundings by visiting the school. Not only does this tip help children of all ages, but it’s also a fun way for mom and dad to discover the campus.

“A lot of times schools will post a student’s schedule or the name of their teacher a couple days before the first day,” says Jane. “It’s fun for the younger kids to go check out their classroom. For older kids, identifying classroom locations help to reduce the stress of, ‘Will I get to each of my classes on time?’ and ‘Where do I go next?’”

E is for energy
A healthy breakfast and lunch are a given. Jane says a combination of lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, and whole grain foods will give students the energy and nutrition they need to make it through an early morning history lesson. Healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, carrot sticks, or string cheese will also give students the boost of energy needed to soak up the day’s curriculum.

 “For lunch, I would say include some lean meats, and a whole grain bread or pita stuffed with lettuce, tomato, bok choy, broccoli, or black beans—instead of meat or tofu,” she says.

Homework zone
Make homework time quiet and enjoyable by designating an area for your child to really focus, whether that’s the kitchen table or a desk in their room.

“I would encourage them to start with the most challenging assignment first, to get that out of the way, and then focus on the smaller items when they’re a bit more fatigued during homework time,” says Jane. “My advice is to go to back-to-school night because you will learn the expectations for [your child’s] class or classes.”

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