Surviving the first day: Advice from Cobb principals
by Hilary Butschek
August 03, 2014 04:00 AM | 6443 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left are Peter Giles, principal of Palmer Middle School; Judy McNeill, principal of Walton High School; and Tricia Patterson, principal of Tritt Elementary School.
From left are Peter Giles, principal of Palmer Middle School; Judy McNeill, principal of Walton High School; and Tricia Patterson, principal of Tritt Elementary School.
MARIETTA — In anticipation for the first day of school, local principals all say the same thing — come prepared with a smile.

“Regardless of how good or bad the previous year went, the new school year is always a fresh start,” said Peter Giles, the principal of Palmer Middle School.

A total of about 109,000 students are expected to enter classrooms at Cobb County School System’s 114 schools early Monday morning, said Jay Dillon, Cobb schools spokesman.

The Marietta City School System will start classes Wednesday.

Giles said he likes to keep a positive attitude, and he said that’s something students can benefit from as well.

“My advice to any student coming back is to have a positive attitude and to get to know their teachers and build that relationship with them,” Giles said.

He said his children gave more practical recommendations to prepare for Monday morning.

“They said eat a good breakfast and get a good night’s sleep,” Giles said.

Tricia Patterson, the principal at Tritt Elementary School, said she also recommends staying healthy leading up to the first day. She said elementary schoolers should bring a water bottle to use at recess in the summer heat.

“It’s important to stay hydrated,” Patterson said.

To be ready for classes, Walton High School Principal Judy McNeill said students should bring the essential school supplies the first day.

“Bring a notebook and make sure they have a couple of writing instruments,” she said.

Walton said students can bring electronics to school, but they should keep them turned off until they know the rules of each classroom.

“It’s a good way to get in trouble the first day to be texting or emailing on your phone when the teacher is trying to talk,” McNeill said.

McNeill said some teachers may allow cellphones and other electronics, while some may not.

Students won’t have lockers the first day, both Giles and McNeill said.

Another way students can be prepared, McNeill said, is to complete any summer assignments before the first day back.

Once they are at school, McNeill said she has advice for how to make friends.

“If you want a friend, you need to be a friend. Come with a friendly attitude,” McNeill said. “Try to smile and try to greet people and take the initiative to get to know new people.”

McNeill said high school students can seem as if they are part of an exclusive group because they don’t invite anyone in, but usually they simply forget.

“I think all students are happy to do that but they maybe just don’t think to invite them,” McNeill said.

Giles said sometimes it takes courage to make friends.

“It just takes introducing yourself to somebody and having a smile,” Giles said.

Patterson said meeting new people is harder sometimes for younger students.

“Sometimes, especially elementary kids, (they) are nervous about meeting new people, but that’s the way they learn more about their classmates and more about themselves,” Patterson said.

If students need to find a friend to sit with at the lunch table, Giles suggested chatting with the person you sit next in class or stand behind in the lunch line.

The principals acknowledged higher grade levels can present social challenges for students, including peer pressure and bullying.

McNeill said one way to stay out of a situation of peer pressure is to choose friends wisely.

“Before they would accept an invitation to experience activities away from school, try to get to know a little more about the student to see if they have values in common with the student, before they just say, ‘Yes, I’d love to go to the party’ or whatever,” McNeill said.

“If they feel like they are being bullied, they need to inconspicuously say something to their teacher or they need to go directly to the guidance department and ask to their counselor for help,” McNeill said.

Students should try hard not to be nervous about finding their way around a new school or finding new classrooms in an old school, both principals said.

“Don’t worry about getting lost. We’ll be happy to help them find their class,” McNeill said.

Anyone having trouble with directions can visit the front desk, she said.

Parents can check school websites to stay up to date with what’s going on in the classroom, Patterson said.

“They really need to get acquainted with the school’s website and the blogs that the teachers keep, and then just check those frequently,” Patterson said.

Overall, Giles said he hopes students are happy to start school.

“They should expect a lot of excitement. I know our staff here at Palmer is excited about seeing our kids. We get a chance to meet new teachers and new friends,” Giles said.

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