Back to school

Travel EVA


Back to school

by: David Hurwitz | .
Stripes Korea | .
published: August 22, 2012

The first day of school is like Christmas, a renaissance, opening day in baseball, show-and-tell, a book just opened, a new life, a blind date, childbirth, and many other things, or at least that is how it is variously described on the Internet. But despite the wide range of descriptions, all the sites seem to agree that it is indeed a day like no other.

With the Aug. 27 start of school fast approaching at the 49 Department of Defense Educational Activity Pacific schools associated with 22 military installations on Guam, mainland Japan, Okinawa and Korea, the system’s 3,300 or so full-time employees, including teachers, administrators and support staff, and about 23,500 students are all preparing for the new term.

So, turn the pages as Stars and Stripes helps you kick off the school year.

There are three good reasons to be a teacher – June, July, and August,” an anonymous wag once said, and this has come to be considered conventional wisdom in society. But perhaps if this were really true, the person who coined the saying would have done more to claim authorship of the remark.

“A common misconception is that teachers have a few months off (in the summer). There are no students, but we must prepare for the next year. We have 181 instructional days, but this shrinks a lot with special events, so we must prepare how to get students to understand and get them to reach their potential,” said Luke Spencer, a teacher of 10th grade world history and 12th grade AP government at Daegu High School in Korea.

“During the summer, I do quite a bit of preparation to make lessons more enjoyable and palatable for students. I make my lesson plans and review the latest literature (on teaching). I’m always thinking how I can tap in to what they love to do and get them to learn what they need to know,” said Angela Tilley, a fifth-grade teacher at Arnn Elementary School in the Sagamihara Housing Area, near Camp Zama, in mainland Japan. “It takes about 60 hours just to get the classroom ready. Summer is our time to do (things like) that because we don’t have the luxury of time during the year. There’s no way to do our job if we don’t prepare over the summer.”

This view is echoed by Lydia Foley, a kindergarten teacher at Arnn, who said, “Over the summer, I think about what to do, how to change things and introduce new things. I reflect on things I didn’t accomplish the year before. I want to improve so the kids can be excited (about learning).”

Christina Topasna, a fifth-grade teacher at McCool Elementary and Middle School on Guam, is also a strong advocate of summer prep.

“Mentally and psychologically, I’m always preparing, thinking of what I can do for the year. I come in (a few weeks) early before the start of school to prepare my classroom so when (the students) come in on the first day, they know what they should be learning and get actively involved. I come in for a few hours every day because at the beginning of the year there are meetings and other activities that don’t leave much time for preparing.”

There are certain things that teachers want every parent to know and do to help ensure their children’s success in school.

1. Setting a routine is crucial
“I tell parents: Everything is schedule, schedule, schedule. Get (your kids) in a proper sleeping, eating and exercise schedule. The younger they are, the harder it is (for them) to adjust (to school). It takes a lot of stamina for kids to get to the end of the day. A good routine helps get them through the physical demands of what we expect them to do,” said Arnn’s Angela Tilley.

“Parents should help kids have a certain place for their backpacks, a place to study and a time to study, and a time to get up as part of a routine,” said Arnn’s Mary Fernandez, a view echoed by almost every teacher who appears in this article.

2. School should be fun
“Kids look at school as fun until that is taken away from them. Always encourage kids to be kids. Allow them to grow – encourage them and be enthusiastic about learning,” said Rachel Clement, a substitute teacher at McCool Elementary and Middle School on Naval Base Guam and vice president of the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization.

3. Proper rest is essential
“Rest is one of the most important things. Kids need it in different amounts. Make sure they are rested. If they have a good morning and are not late, it runs through the whole day. Start out positive. Parents have to get up early and get their kids out right. Make sure they are fed, their clothes are clean, their homework is done. If you do, the kids come in ready to learn,” McCool’s Rachel Clement said.

“In the evening, there should be as little TV and computer time as possible. Minimize game playing on iPhones and iPads. (During the day) get them outside playing,” said Arnn’s Lydia Foley

4. Kids need parental involvement
“Parents should tell them how important education is and celebrate them when they have successes…Let them know that they support them and be positive with them. Kids know when they are being supported,” said Arnn’s Mary Fernandez.

“Parents need to have realistic, high expectations and express them to their kids. They need to get involved. It’s not good if the teacher is the only one setting expectations. If the parents and teacher work together, they tend to have high-achieving students,” said Luke Spencer of Daegu High School.

5. Kids need parental encouragement
“Parents should promote big ideas in their kids. Dream big for your child. You don’t know if you have the next Einstein or president of the United States. But you can’t get there if your dreams are small, if you aim for the middle and hope for the best,” said Daegu’s Luke Spencer.

“Don’t compare your kid to anyone else. You’ve got to appreciate them for what they are,” said McCool’s Rachel Clement.

6. Parent-teacher communication is important
“All kids get a planner and write assignments in it. Parents should look at it every evening, check they have done the homework and look for teacher’s notes. Sept. 12 is Back to School Night, when parents and teachers can meet. Teachers tell them the requirements of the class, what to expect and what the kids need,” said Andersen Middle’s Viola Torre.

“Parents know I am accessible. I have prep time during the day when the kids are in gym. Parents can come in to see me then,” said McCool’s Christina Topsana.

The school term is not a dash but a marathon, and teachers have to inspire and encourage students not just for the first day or week of the school term, but for the entire year.

“You’re so excited at the beginning, doing the organizing focused on getting (the students) in their routines. It gets more challenging in the springtime. The focus is less on content and more on behavior, but the energy consumption is about the same. I tell parents that the first nine weeks, I’m going to send your kids home tired. Later on, in springtime, I’m going to go home tired,” said Arnn’s Angela Tilley.

“We don’t do the same thing in the 70 to 80 minutes of the class. Every 20 minutes or so we change activities. Breaking up the activities keeps (the students) engaged. The ones that like to write enjoy the writing, those that like reading enjoy the reading,” said Andersen Middle School’s Viola Torre.

Teachers have to find a way to get their students back in the mind-set to study after summer vacation.

“I start with reading in different genres to get their interest,” said Viola Torre, a 7th grade language arts and 6th grade social studies teacher at Andersen Middle School, on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. “If it makes me laugh I try to use it,” she said.

“By the end of the first week of school, we’re back in the groove of learning things. But that is based on the teachers, students and circumstances. Classes create their own group dynamic. My kids (for the coming year) are artistically inclined so I will offer more visual lessons,” said Angela Tilley from Arnn.

“(In the second grade) kids are still impressionable. They still like to please for the most part. They are only seven or eight, but capable of a lot. By the second week, with support from home, they are pretty much on their way,” according to Mary Fernandez, a second grade teacher from Arnn.

“We do a lot of movement because kids are not used to sitting. I take my cues from the kids. When they get antsy, I declare a recess and we go outside. I slowly rein them in over the 1st quarter and teach them how to be in school. I figure out where they are and slowly get them where they need to be,” said Arnn’s Lydia Foley.

“After discussing classroom rules and what’s expected of them, I jump into 5th grade skills and find out what their skills are and who can work independently on their own,” according to McCool’s Christina Topsana. “I do lots of group work, collaborative work, getting to know each student, making them comfortable in the environment, especially students who are new.”

“…. an adventure, like opening a new book. It’s an adventure into possibilities. Kindergarten is special. We get to start the kids from the very beginning, prepare them for the rest of their school life…It is special because you are going into it completely blind. We have no idea about their abilities…Everything we do is an accomplishment.”
– Lydia Foley

“….something new, something exciting...For every teacher, it is different. It’s exciting to find so much energy. Kids are very energetic.”
– Christina Topsana

“….a new job, surrounded by people who seem like familiar faces, but with new responsibilities, excitement, but with a realization that there’s work to be done. School can be fun, but education can be hard work.”
– Luke Spencer

“….always funny, because you always need to entertain the kids to get their attention. It’s always exciting; there are always new faces.”
– Viola Torre

“….like opening night in a play. You have that anticipation, those butterflies. You don’t know what to expect, how you’re going to be received.”
– Angela Tilley

“… amazing. (The students’) energy level is breathtaking. If the whole world would look at things as kids do on the first day of school, we would not have the problems we have today.
– Rachel Clement

“I Want You” to stop bullying
The United States has declared war on bullying, and like the famous poster of Uncle Sam pointing his finger and saying “I Want You,” the government is challenging young people ages 13 to 18 to volunteer and join the fight.

The Federal Partners for Bullying Prevention, a workshop comprising nine government departments, has combined with the Health Resources and Services Administration to launch a video challenge to “help prevent and end bullying in schools and communities across the nation.”

Young teenagers are being asked to make a 30- to 60-second video to encourage their peers to prevent bullying and promote an atmosphere where respect for others matters.

The video should be “creative, informative, smart, and entertaining,” and focus on “how youth can be more than a bystander,” rather than merely explain why bullying is wrong.

Offering a grand prize of $2,000 and two honorable mention awards of $500 each, as well as featuring the winning videos on the website, the challenge seeks to create an impact with videos that demonstrate:

1. Peer-to-peer communication;
2. A positive message; and
3. Promotion of the

Videos can be submitted through http://stop until Oct. 14 at 11 p.m. Submissions will be judged from Oct. 15 to Dec. 2, followed by public voting from Dec. 3 to 10. The winners will be announced on Dec. 20.

Kids, you see bullying every day. It’s up to you to help stop it. Use your creativity and tell other young people how they can stop being bystanders and help kids that are bullied and those doing the bullying. Accept the challenge!

Information compiled from

The first day of school is like…

“you’re in a candy store – you know what you like and you what you don’t want,” said Julia Elliot, 12, a 7th-grader at Camp Zama Middle School. “I’m a little excited (about going back to school); I need to get out of the house. I’m trying to do a routine (before school starts). I get up around 5 a.m., walk the dogs, take a shower, have breakfast. I pack my school bag and pick out my clothes the night before.”

“going into something and you don’t know what you’re going to get,” according to Cynthya Walker, a 12th-grader at Daegu High School. “Everything is new and fresh: clothes, school supplies, teachers…A few weeks before school started, I started studying for the SATs, and doing some reading and writing.” When asked what advice she would give to younger students, she said, “Learn to take good notes. Jot down everything. When I get home from school I do my homework, get things together. Pack your bag (the night before), choose what to wear. “Don’t get rushed (in the morning), you can sleep later.”

“a baseball game. Sometimes you can have a good school year and sometimes it’s not so good,” said Talese Zeigler, 11, a 6th-grader on Yokota Air Base. To prepare for school, “Our parents made us read and do math, which we made a good start at first, but then we fell hard.”

“scary if you’re a new person there and don’t have friends to hang out with,” according to Jade Laudermilk, a 4th-grader at Joan K. Mendel Elementary School on Yokota Air Base. “Me and my mother did workbooks, math, social studies, language arts, and read for an hour each day (during the summer.”

“a fun day because we usually don’t do so much work,” said Brian McKinley, 10, a 5th-grader at Joan K. Mendel Elementary School on Yokota Air Base.

“scary because you don’t know a lot of the people around you and you have to get used to your classmates,” said fellow classmate Olivia Powers, 10. “I practice going to bed earlier (in the weeks before school starts).”

Both Brian and Olivia do their homework right after school, with Olivia doing hers at the Youth Center located near her school.

Summer is ending and the new school year will be starting soon! Here are some helpful tips for parents from some members of Guam Federation of Teachers (GFT). Whether you have children in kindergarten or in high school, these are some basic tips to keep in mind as you help them either start school for the first time or transition into a new grade level. We highly encourage parents to stay involved in their child’s education as this is an important factor in determining a child’s progress in school.

• Make sure shot records are up-to-date
• Set an early bedtime schedule, have your child get enough sleep (at least 8 hours)
• Always start the day with a healthy breakfast
• Make sure your child’s backpacks are secured the night before to avoid the morning rush of the first day
• Have basic school supplies ready in your child’s backpacks (notebooks, pencils, filler paper and folders)
• Talk to your child about the new school year and their teacher(s)
• Check homework nightly
• Encourage your child to be proactive in their school work. If they don’t understand something, they should ask their teacher
• Check bus schedules where applicable
• Get to know your child’s school community (teachers, principals, office staff, school nurse, counselors, school aides, bus drivers, etc.)
• Get involved with your child’s Parent Teacher Organization
• Keep your child’s school and teacher contact information

Source: Guam Federation of Teachers, Local 1581

Arlington, Va. — The Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) is requesting community input on the revision of Graduation Regulation 2000.1, 2004. DoDEA strives to provide an exemplary education that inspires and prepares all students for success in a dynamic, global environment. This regulation outlines the requirements for a student to earn a DODEA diploma. Parents, students, community members and other interested parties are encouraged to provide input until Sept. 30 through the DODEA website at:

Source: DODEA

Tags: Education
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