Dear Escalante Middle School Community,
I am hopeful that all parents and students can join us for our Back-to-School Night event on September 7th. Everyone in the Escalante Middle School Community is invited to a hot dog cook out on the front lawn at 5:00 PM. At 5:30 PM, we will transition inside for a community meeting in the gymnasium to welcome you and to communicate our main priorities for the school year. Beginning at 6:00 PM, we will run a very modified schedule so that all parents can walk through each of their child’s classes, with the goal of wrapping up the evening by 7:00 PM.
During the first few weeks of school, teachers spend quite a bit of time setting up classroom structures, supports, and expectations for the school year. In many ways, this is a great idea for parents as well, and something I strive to do with my own children. To develop our kids executive functioning skills, it is very important that we teach them how to manage time, plan for a day, and keep up with school work. Creating a dedicated time for homework, free-reading, and bedtime all directly correlate to higher academic achievement.
One of the largest barriers to these structures for middle school students revolves around screen time. While the statistics tend to vary, most researchers agrees that the average American teen spends between five to nine hours a day viewing a screen for entertainment purposes. Fifty percent of teens report feeling addicted to their phones. A recent study from the Child Development Journal directly linked screen time and mental health. Essentially, it found that teens who view screens at night are more vulnerable to sleep-loss, anxiety, and depression. The link below gives a concise summary of the findings:
So what are some proactive things that parents can do once we pry our children away from their screens?
Strategy One: Eat Together as a Family
Dr. Ann Dolin advocates for taking time to eat together as a family. She found that children in homes that regularly share meals:
Do well in school (40% more likely to earn As and Bs in school)
Are emotionally content and have lower levels of stress
Have positive peer relationships and healthier eating habits
Refrain from smoking, drinking, and doing drugs
Believe their parents are proud of them
Strategy Two: Read Independently for Pleasure
Reading high volumes of text is the surest pathway to reading proficiency. According to Nancy Atwell, a lead educational researcher: “Every measure that looks at pleasure reading and its effects on student performance on standardized tests of reading ability—and science and math—tells us that the major predictor of academic success is the amount of time that a student spends reading. In fact, the top 5 percent of U.S. students read up to 144 times more than the kids in the bottom 5 percent.”
Strategy Three: Ensure Nine Hours of Sleep a Night
Sleep is essentially food for the teenage brain. When they get nine hours of sleep a night, students are much more likely to retain new information, be mentally healthy, and maintain a high grade point average.
At Escalante Middle School we have been hard at work these first few weeks creating structures and routines that will create conditions for success throughout the year. As parents, we can support student learning by focusing on structures and routines at home as well.
I very much look forward to greeting you at our Back-to-School Night next week as we work together to launch a successful 2017-2018 school year.
Escalante Middle School, Principal