The first day of school is always an anxious one—new faces, new friends, new rules, new everything. What can teachers, parents and students do to make the first day and the rest of the year less anxious, more rewarding and enjoyable?

Here are some tips for teachers:

Please say the name of each of your students at least one time. If you have them all day or part of the day, say their name more than once. Students want to feel valued and when you say their name, that shows that they are somebody. I have had teachers in college that never said my name—not even once. What terrible teaching and what a disgrace to the college.

Tell the students about yourself. You also are somebody and the students want to know something about you. You don’t have to go overboard telling about yourself but sharing some things is probably the best first step to building trust. Tell them about where you went to school, about your family, what you do when you are not teaching and maybe even your favorite kind of book or even pizza. Seems like common sense but many teachers overlook this simple strategy.

Try to make them laugh—even just a little. I am big on telling riddles. Even though most are pretty corny, there is always someone who will chuckle or crack a smile or moan or groan. Just the fact that you told a funny story is good. Make it a habit of putting humor into your teaching. Your kids will love you for it. Try to leave your kids smiling every day.

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Tell your students why they are learning whatever you are teaching. Make this a habit; make this a trademark of your teaching. Students need to know why they will be learning what they are learning. If you are good at it, that’s all the motivation they will need.

Do some get-acquainted activities. I wrote a book full of some of the best. We have all done icebreakers and they do help us to get to know one another better. We become a team, which is what you are striving for.

Above all, be sure and remind your students that everyone is capable of graduating and that each has special gifts. Every student has value.

Here are some tips for parents:

Many years ago I heard the Secretary of Education under Bill Clinton, Richard Riley, cite some research that really made sense. He said that if parents do these six things consistently, their kids will do better in school.

Eat with your kids. Raising a family is a team effort. The best time to gather the team together is around the table while you are eating. Eating together brings people together—like you do when you have a family reunion.

Read with your kids. Kids that can’t read well will struggle in school. Even though your children may not be ready to read, you can read to them and you can have books around. If you read, they are more likely to read. Pushing kids to read when they are not ready is not a good idea. You can, however, expose them to the enjoyment of reading.

Make sure your kids get enough sleep. If they don’t, they will make up for it in school.

Become involved in your school. When parents take an interest in school, kids will too. When there is no interest, kids are more likely not to do well.

Have limits at home. Schools have all kinds of rules. Society has all kinds of rules. If there are no rules at home, you can guess what happens when children go to school. It’s important to have some basic rules at home.

Talk to your kids about school. Show your kids that you have an interest in education. This is tough to do when a parent has many other issues to face. Still, your family should be your No. 1 priority. When you show an interest in school and what your kids are doing, they are more likely to do better because they want to please you.

I would add to this list, do whatever you can to ensure your kids graduate from high school. High school graduation is a huge first step for kids. Life is challenging enough. Without a high school diploma, it becomes much, much more challenging.

Here are some tips for students:

Since students are not likely to read this column, I will leave it up to parents and friends to remind students about some simple things they should do to have a good year.

Be nice to your classmates and be polite to everyone.

Raise your hand when you don’t understand something.

See your teachers after class if you need to.

Turn in assignments on time even if you feel you haven’t done well.

Ask teachers to explain why you are learning something.

Go out for an extracurricular activity.

Get plenty of sleep.

Hang out with students who will support you.

All of the above tips are easy. Make a habit of them. If you do, it will be an exceptional year for teachers, parents and students.

Note: In my column of last week, I mentioned that I had been around for 40 million seconds. Thanks to a reader, I should have said 40 billion seconds. All of a sudden, I feel much older.

Riddle: What did the ink pen say to the pencil? Answer: What’s your point? If you want to make a point with your students, with your kids or with your teachers, do just one or two of the above. That’s all. I hope I have made my point.


Thanks to the Hampton Inn and Suites and the Headwaters School of Music and Arts for supporting our 100% graduation rate goal.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.