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Preparing your child to return to the classroom

Eva Hilton Primary School sixth grade teacher Valdarine Kemp says she and her peers will work hand-in-hand to make learning better for children
  • Pictured is Eva Hilton Primary School sixth grade teacher Valdarine Kemp in South Korea, one of the stops on the three-country Asian tour she is experiencing before returning home to prepare her classroom to receive students. She also visited Vietnam and Cambodia. VALDARINE KEMP

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Aug 21, 2017

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The majority of the country’s students will report to school in two weeks for the start of the new academic year, but as the summer break winds down, one teacher said parents should be taking the opportunity to get their children excited about returning to the classroom.

Eva Hilton Primary School sixth grade teacher Valdarine Kemp says she and her peers will be ready to accept students and will work hand-in-hand to make school better for children.

She says parents won’t have to look any further than Eva Hilton Primary, where they plan to incorporate aspects of Bahamian culture — something the children are familiar with — into the learning experience. It’s something the school started last year. She said they realized how excited it made the children about learning.

“Every class will be doing different areas in culture, in language, in science, in math. We will be using different aspects of culture to teach a skill. On a given week or month, if the theme is festivals, every grade level will be doing a different festival, and their spelling words will include festival words. If I’m doing Pineapple Festival, my words will all be words connected to Pineapple Festival; if grade one is doing Junkanoo, their words will be connected to Junkanoo, and so forth. Each grade level will be doing that for vocabulary, spelling, grammar… everything that we can involve it in — in math doing word problems, so the children will be familiar with, and make it easier to complete that skill,” said Kemp.

“We started it last year, but this year we are going full force with it, because we saw the children were excited about it because they are familiar with it, so we are going with it full force in the new year. If you were to walk into Eva Hilton when school reopens, you would see the Bahamian culture coming out, because we are trying to see if that would help in anyway.”

Kemp also encourages parents to take the time out to get their children in the frame of mind to walk into the classroom ready to learn after the long summer break.

In preparation, she urges parents to encourage children to start refreshing information learned last year, such as their timetables, and rereading exercise books, including doing some of the work, so that they can be prepared to jump right in to learning new material.

Looking back at the previous year’s work, she said, would allow children to make the learning connections in their next grade levels.

“They will make that connection and be able to review from that and add to it, so it will be easier for that child when he or she is studying.”

As far as what she as an educator would like to see from children in the first day and week of school, it’s them returning with material, especially textbooks.

“They come and they’re all name brand-out, but come to school with nothing in their bags, except what they would have been given by some sponsor or the other. Parents need to ensure that they have the textbooks, and if someone wants to do something for their child as they return to the classroom, parents should encourage that person to purchase a textbook their child may need,” said the 40-plus year teaching veteran.

“They [children] need to come back with all the material that they need at the very beginning,” said Kemp. “I don’t want to have to wait for the end of September for them [parents] to be looking for the books. I can’t hold my class back for your child who does not have the text from the list you were given from the end of school. It’s not fair, and that’s what happens a lot of times. The children need the texts,” she said.

With technology a big part of children’s lives in the 21st century, she said parents should also do their part in ensuring that students properly use technology.

“Let them know that they will be able to use it to help with their assignments, and if they were given any assignments to ensure that they are completed and they can do it using technology. They have books that they can read, exercises and different things that they can do on the computer itself or any handheld game.”

She also says the combination of digital and chalk and talk is good to keep the children interested.

“They love the computer, so you have to get them to use it for education more than just playing the games as they do.”

Kemp will be among the many teachers returning to the classroom on August 28 to make final preparations before the doors open to students on Monday, September 4 and she’s excited for it, considering Eva Hilton Primary’s plan to incorporate Bahamian culture into the students’ educational experience.

She is on a three-country Asian tour of Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia prior to returning to the classroom. Traveling the world during breaks is something she likes to do, because she gets to teach her children from experiences, and not just what she’s read about. Every year, Kemp makes it a point to visit two to three countries. She has done trips where she’s visited Australia and Malaysia, and Suriname and Guyana.

“When I teach about Japan, I would have been to Japan. When I taught about Africa, I would have been to Africa and would have been able to say ‘This happened, or didn’t happen like that’, and ‘Africans are this’, or ‘South Africans are that’, or ‘The Swiss do this’. All the areas that I teach, I would have been to,” she said.

Even if parents have allowed their children to slack off during the entire summer break, the educator said they could use the remaining weeks to get their children’s brains back into learning mode. Keeping with the spirit of summer holidays, she hopes that in doing so, parents can make the experience fun.

“It’s time for the children to start reading and not letting their brains stay too idle. If it’s not a book that they pick up, they should be reading on their tablets or laptops. Parents should just make sure that their children are reading,” she said.

For students who are advancing into sixth grade, and those who are leaving primary school behind and moving up to junior school, Kemp said this is the time for parents to let their children know that the transition will be very important.

“We have parents who treat the children like they’re still babies, so we advise them to let go, and let the children be responsible for their own doings or whatever they have to do. Parents need to talk to them about the importance of the sixth grade and going into seventh grade.”

Her advice to the children who have graduated primary school and will start junior school in the fall is for them to do their best and work.

“Once they make that transition into the seventh grade, and successfully do that, then it would be easier straight through, as they will be grounded and that’s important,” said Kemp

With mere weeks to the school year, the teacher also said that parents should be putting into practice getting their children into a regular routine of bedtime by 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. at the latest, to ensure that children are fresh and ready for school.

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