First Person

Countdown to fall

A new school year can jolt students and parents, says Susan Zoll, an assistant professor in early childhood education at Wheelock College.

Susan Zoll.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff
Susan Zoll.

This is always an exciting time of year: Summer is winding down, preparations for the new school year are underway. In my field, you often hear about “school readiness,” referring to a child’s physical, social, and cognitive capacity as they begin their academic careers. As the beginning of school approaches, parents can support their children by visiting the schools they will be attending, by speaking with their teachers, by allowing the child to visit the environment they will be attending in the coming weeks.

Parents should be aware of concerns that their children might have in separation. They can read books about characters on their first day of school and have conversations with their child about what they anticipate.

Some of the concerns that children at any age have are: Will I fit in? Will I have a friend? Will I be able to do what’s expected of me in these new classes? These are some of the really basic ones.


It’s not just young children who may have concerns about the first day of school. It could be the student moving from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school, or your child who’s now going to move away from home and live in a dorm at college. These are all periods of great transition for our children. And it requires support and understanding and conversation.

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There’s also the adults. As your child goes off to school and you have free time — here I’m speaking from experience, as my youngest will now be going off to college — what is this next phase of your life? Where will you be spending your time? It’s time to focus on what your aspiration is for the next phase of your life.    — As told to Joel Brown

BACK TO CLASS Boston Public Schools resume September 4 for all grades except kindergarten, which starts September 9.

Interview has been edited and condensed.