Help Students Start the Year Right by Establishing After-School Routines

I’m starting my ninth year as a middle school administrator, and the first day of school still brings the same excitement, anticipation, and nervousness as it did when I was a student many years ago, and a teacher sometime after. This is what makes this job so rewarding. Humans are different and unpredictable, and no two years are the same in a school building. We have 378 individuals in our middle school, each with their own personalities and thousands of characteristics that make them unique. I learn something new every year, and after working with thousands of students and their families, I can say with certainty that I am better at my job today than I was yesterday, and much better than I was nine years ago. I can say the same about our staff, who bring an average of over 10 years of experience per teacher in an industry where half of new teachers quit within the first five years on the job. This experience translates into academic, social, and ethical results amongst our students from a staff that cares about them, and who will use all of the tools in their experienced tool belts to inspire them to achieve as lifelong learners.

We know that middle school can be a time of uncertainty for parents and students alike, and you chose us as your school because we provide a safe, predictable, and structured environment to help ease the perils of adolescence. Our routines and rituals are designed to provide clarity to our expectations so students know what it takes to thrive as an academic, a community member, and a young adult.

Regarding academics, we are a Core Knowledge School, which means that your students will engage in rigorous, content-rich texts that will provide them with the foundation for higher-level thinking and analysis. Knowledge-based education is a research-supported methodology that has been successful across the demographic spectrum. For more information on knowledge-based education, please go to, or read one of the many books on the topic. On of my favorites is The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System – And How to Fix it by Natalie Wexler. This is a fast read that documents the research behind Core Knowledge, its evolution, and how it has played out in classrooms throughout the years. I love to talk shop, so feel free to reach out to me anytime if you’d like to discuss this book, or any topic around education.

You are the most important factor in your student’s success, and we’re here as your partners in their education. If you haven’t already, please help your student establish an after-school routine each day to take care of their basic needs and to complete their school work. This includes providing them a distraction-free space to do homework. An example schedule might include the following: an afternoon snack, outside playtime, homework time, reading time, and then a wind-down that could include a discussion or an all-ages TV show that you can enjoy as a family. Whatever schedule works best for you and your family, I would suggest the non-negotiables be consistency, distraction-free space and time, exercise, and a good night’s sleep.

Casey Baldwin, assistant principal, and I have devised a number of resources over the past years in the areas of growth mindset, study habits, testing culture, and electronics overuse, just to name a few, that we will share with you in the coming weeks. We will also make them available on our great new website for you to access anytime. We have also cataloged many lessons from experience and our own families that we love to share during our morning coffees or professional development time. We respect that you are the experts on your children, but we’re here to help in any way we can.

Working at Prospect Ridge Academy is a privilege that I never take for granted. I’m grateful to be here, and so appreciative of being a part of this community that we have all built together. On behalf of our entire staff, I want to welcome you to the 2023-2024 school year and thank you for choosing us to be a part of your child’s education.

by Steve Thygesen
Middle School Principal

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