For those of us who work in education, “back to school” is certainly the best time of the year.At the three BASIS charter schools in the East Valley, we’ve been reviewing, revising and otherwise tinkering with the specifics of our world-acclaimed, nationally-ranked curriculum, in preparation for the second school year for BASIS Ahwatukee and BASIS Mesa, each of which had standout first years. We’re also looking forward to our fourth year of academic and extracurricular life at BASIS Chandler, which has been exceedingly successful for a young school, and has the confident, sure-of-itself sensibility of one of the original BASIS “legacy schools” in Tucson or Scottsdale.Indeed, at all three of the BASIS charter schools in the East Valley, the classroom has proven to be a place of success: of learning, action and responsibility, of asking questions, seeking and finding answers. We know that Americans frequently see classrooms depicted as focal points of frustration for parents and students, for teachers and communities; we know that they embody expectations in August, and failure later on. Ramping up to BASIS speed in a new BASIS school may seem like a formidable hill, but in Ahwatukee and Mesa last year, and in Chandler in 2011, we enjoyed quite a bit of success, and most of our East Valley students found that the steepness of the climb is a positive and purposeful part of the process. We are thankful to the fantastic support we received from students, parents and the community for each of our East Valley schools, as well — and look forward to that spirit continuing in the upcoming academic year.Besides preparing for the day-to-day classroom life and learning that begins anew in the coming weeks, a new academic year also means we get to revitalize ourselves in the face of BASIS’ overall pedagogical mission, to raise the levels of American education to the highest international standards. We are appreciative at BASIS charter schools to be part of the public education system in Arizona, and the United States — and proud to be among the state’s and the nation’s very best institutions: open-enrollment, tuition-free public schools whose eligible campuses are consistently ranked among the nation’s top 10. When there is space available at a BASIS school, any child who wants to learn can fill that space — and be instilled with a love of acquiring knowledge that will last a lifetime, from middle and high school, to higher education, and beyond.The progressive education advocate John Dewey wrote of learning as a social and interactive process, and schools as “the fundamental method of social progress and reform.” Of course, as educators, we hold schools and what they can do in the very highest regard, and we therefore believe that each of our students — and, in fact, any child — can rise through education. That’s why we account for and take pride in teaching each of the children who walk through our doors. We are gratified by our curriculum, the successful response to it and the eminence of the teachers who teach it, but additionally, we hold dear that in a BASIS school, children not only learn from teachers who are collectively among the brightest and most passionate anywhere, but also learn from each other’s curiosities, questions, and answers. BASIS classrooms are electric; they are crisscrossed with multiple layers of learning, of sharing knowledge, of support and ascension. The more any BASIS student learns, the more we all learn.The new school year is a fresh beginning for that idea, and while the thrum and vigor of a BASIS classroom is always something to behold, at the start of the school year, curiosity is maximized for students and teachers, and possibilities truly seem endless.
The start of each school year is an excellent time to set into place good habits that can lead to a success in the classroom and self-confidence for students. Take the time to write down steps for students — no matter their age — to help guide them as they return to school. Review them as needed. For the younger children, make the steps visible each day. Add picture reminders for students who are not reading yet.Set up a schedulePlan a schedule out with your student for each day to include a morning routine, homework time and bedtime. Don’t forget family time, athletics practices, fine arts rehearsals and just time to play, relax or read.Make homework a priorityStudents today live busy lives, but parents can emphasize the importance of school by setting an expectation for homework and study time. When possible, set homework time earlier in the evening, rather than after practices when students may be tired. Though schedules may vary (swim practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, piano lesson on Wednesday), attempt to keep as much of a routine as possible. One hint: Be certain students get a snack or dinner before homework to keep the “hunger grumbles” at a minimum.Turn off the electronics