The start of a new school year is exciting for educators, parents, and students alike – any fresh beginning brims with hope and optimism for what may become. When partnering with parents on the formation of their adolescent children, we’re particularly excited about the opportunity to help students navigate this phase of their lives. Adolescents experience rapid physical, cognitive, and social-emotional growth. Each stage of human development is important, but transitioning from childhood to adulthood is crucial for laying the foundations of good health and successful practices.
As September is Attendance Awareness Month, helping your children establish great attendance habits cannot be emphasized enough. Over the years, public education has evolved into a complex support system that is much more than academics, even though cognitive development remains our focus. Ukiah Unified provides a safe and caring learning environment that helps students meet their nutritional and wellness needs, develop friendships, experience athletics and other extracurricular activities, and grow into well-rounded individuals. When thinking about the complete services our schools provide, it becomes clear that attendance is essential. Simply said, students must be present to benefit from socialization, nutrition, academics, and discovering new interests.
Locating oneself in a complex world requires being engaged with that world. It’s easy to overlook that’s what we’re doing for students in school – helping them grow into who they are.
And that process can be challenging. Schoolwork can be demanding, but no more so than friendships. Growth and learning requires our young people to operate at the edge of their comfort zone. Our mission is to understand and recognize that and provide a safe space for our students to take risks, struggle with support, overcome fears and challenges themselves, and gain the personal confidence that comes with those experiences.
It’s an adjustment time for parents, too. In elementary school, children are much more dependent on parental involvement in their lives. In middle school, students inherently want more independence yet simultaneously have a heightened need for “quiet support” from their parents. Parents are still the primary influence in their children’s development. Helping to prioritize the importance of education, the necessity of attendance, and extending that safe space for healthy risk-taking can make a surprising difference in a student’s approach to this dynamic period of change in their lives.
Fundamentally, two truths become apparent at this moment in time. First is the truism that education remains the great equalizer in society. Helping children understand and accept that education is their responsibility must be set in middle school. Students learn that the effort they put into education shapes their opportunities in adulthood. Elementary schools set the stage for a love of learning. Middle school maintains that love while helping students manage their new awareness of self in a social world. High school fosters more complex and specific interests that guide future learning in career, vocational, or college opportunities. There is no more significant tool for pursuing the American dream than education. Second is the reality that life is about showing up and participating. Regardless of the direction one’s life takes, showing up on time and consistently for work, school, family, and relationships is required. And showing up is not enough by itself. We must also participate to the best of our abilities.
Please help us create great attendance habits in your children by emphasizing its importance, supporting their schedules and activities to arrive at school on time, and understanding that it’s about academics and so much more.