Spinal Column: Decide now: Have a great school year!

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

School is back in session. That means that many parents are breathing a sigh of relief. For their children, going back to school means catching up with old friends and adjusting to the routine of getting up earlier and doing homework.

There are some important things we all should remember for this new school year.

The first priority—for parents, students and drivers—is that our students make it safely to and from school.

For kids riding the bus there are three main points to remember: 1) Wait until the bus has come to a complete stop and the doors are open before stepping into the roadway; 2) never put your head, arms or hands out of the bus window; and 3) when crossing the street, STOP, look left, then right and then left again before crossing.

For all drivers, remember two critical rules when around a school bus: 1) If the yellow overhead lights are flashing, be prepared to stop; and 2) if the red lights are flashing, STOP, and remain stopped until the red flashing lights are turned off and the school bus begins moving.

Once safety has been established, children are ready to learn.

You may be surprised to learn that neither a family’s income nor social status is the most accurate predictor of how well a student does in school. Rather, success depends on other factors in the home. First, parents must create a home environment that encourages learning. Second, they should communicate high, yet reasonable, expectations for their children’s achievement and future careers. And finally, parents need to be involved in their children’s education at school and in the community.

If you are the parent of an elementary school student, talk frequently to your child’s teacher. Ask about your child’s progress and ask for ideas on what you can do to assist in ensuring your child’s success. Read to your child every day, or have them read to you.

If you are the parent of an older student, encourage your child to get involved in extracurricular activities (sports, music, drama, and many others). Make sure you attend their events! Support your child’s interest in getting involved in mentoring and career exploration and career shadowing experiences. Use technology resources to monitor your child’s grades and assignments.

I encourage all parents in the 15th District to try to make time to help and support their young students. For further assistance in this area, the Michigan Department of Education has many useful resources available on its website at www.michigan.gov/mde. The “Parent Engagement” section offers numerous links and information that can be tremendously helpful.

Ensure your child gets plenty of sleep, arrives to school on time, completes their homework and eats healthy meals. Build up your child’s self-confidence with positive reinforcement and encouragement. These foundations are as essential as anything else in ensuring a child’s academic success.

Remember, success in school is largely up to the choices made by parents and students. Make good choices, and have a great school year!

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.