Make this your best school year ever

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Students at Loyola Academy are encouraged to build friendships, learn by doing and develop independence skills.

Experts in the field of education have seen it all. The advice and support they provide to students and parents is imperative for starting the school year off strong, keeping the momentum going and getting the best experience out of the school year.

“I tell incoming students that the most important thing about high school is to enjoy the passage of time. The four years will go by fast,” said Kevin Mistrik, mathematics teacher at Loyola Academy in Wilmette. “Get involved in a club or activity; try something new that you have not experienced before; reach out to others and meet new friends; and, of course, in the classroom the most important skill is to improve your critical thinking — don’t just focus on the content. Think and take chances.”

Corey Ames, the director of bands at Loyola Academy, said that the beginning of high school can be a challenge due to everything that is new: friends, teachers and routines. Often kids are apprehensive to try new exigent things, said Ames, however it is important to embrace change because it is the only constant in life.

“Learning to study subjects that are not particularly interesting to you is difficult,” said Ames. “I was encouraged by a math teacher in high school to pick the thing I was most passionate about (music) and adapt what I was learning to that subject. I soon learned that math and music were inseparable and math became more interesting.”

Lynn Beuttell, the interim assistant head of upper school for curricular affairs at Lake Forest Country Day School (LFCDS) had these recommendations for back to school success:

Try something new such as joining chorus or an afterschool athletic team.

Get organized by scheduling time for sleep, eating well, doing homework and pursuing a hobby or interest, which is critically important for recharging your batteries.

Find the fun by seeing the positives in each day, by listening to some favorite music and by taking time to laugh (especially at yourself!).

“Middle school is about connecting with peers and harnessing confidence,” said Andy Sperling, interim head of upper school at Lake Forest Country Day School. “At LFCDS, students begin the year with dynamic team-building activities in order to set a positive and collaborative tone for the school year.”

Eighth graders travel to Washington D.C. to learn about history and leadership. “Each child is expected to research a topic and write an informative summary pertaining to a given site or monument and then formally lead that aspect of the tour,” Sperling said.

Fifth through seventh graders go on group education trips in the great outdoors that provide enriching experiences full of opportunities to bond with classmates and educators.

“These trips all help to establish critical guidelines for character development and reinforce the pillars of our school’s honor code: to be honest and trustworthy; to respect the rights, property, and differences of others; to accept responsibility for one’s actions,” said Sperling.

Students, no doubt, will have a brilliant and insightful school year with the help and guidance of parents, educators and even a few friends. “Realize that there are lots of opportunities for fresh starts and strive for persistence and resilience,” Beuttell said.