We all have back to school lists that we have to gather for our children before that first bell of the year rings. As a teacher, here are a few things I wish that all parents knew.
- Get to know your child’s teacher. Your teacher is getting to know you, believe me. (kids tell everything) I’m not saying have drinks at happy hour a few times a week. Just meet and know the name of the person who is spending the day with your child. The good thing about technology is that almost all teachers have an email and aren’t bogged down by having to call only during planning periods. I can even look at my daughter’s teacher’s lesson plans for the week online. If they are in high school or middle school it can be more difficult, but at least have one solid contact among the group.
- Go through your child’s papers. I know life is busy and I even get flack from fellow teachers about how I ramble through Boo’s stuff. Not only can you help them keep their things organized, you can see what is going on during the day. Do they need a little help in math? Does Jacob really think he loves her? Do they need lunch money? You never know what you find crammed in a backpack. In middle or high school, check the school website often.
- Read. Somehow, find a way to make reading fun. I know a lady who is raising her grandchildren. She is on a limited income but several times a week this summer they have been at the library. She turns off the TV and games each night at a certain time. There are no exceptions and I so admire her for making reading a priority. If your child has trouble reading then they need to be reading at home on the reading level they find success. If they are in 4th grade but read at a 2nd grade level, have them reading 2nd grade material.
- You are your child’s best advocate. Notify the school of any matter that will help them provide the best learning environment for your child and be aware of the legal rights your child has and fight for them. Make the staff aware if there is a bully or they need something we aren’t aware of during the day. Contact the teacher if grades are slipping. Again, I check my child’s grades online.
- Don’t freak out over everything. This is the opposite end of the spectrum of being your child’s advocate. I don’t need a 45 minute phone call describing their morning bowel movements. (I do get these calls) Don’t go to the school board because someone cut in line. Sometimes, your child might make a B and it isn’t the end of the world. Neither is missing recess. Sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. I know I have.
- Sometimes, some things are just our of our control. I hate standardized testing just as much (maybe more) than you, but I have to administer it. It is the law. Our schools, the curriculum, behavior guidelines, and testing are all regulated by law. While it may seem to be horrible and smothering, it actually is there in to ensure that all children are taught what they need. My brother, Chad, had a crazy teacher who had plays about Jesus everyday in 2nd grade. He could baptize like crazy for a 7 year old but really didn’t learn to read for meaning, do word problems, or write anything. She did what she wanted and thankfully, those days are gone.
- It isn’t all about you. (or your child) I had parents complain to me last year that we sent home a note reminding the kids to get a good nights sleep before the TAKS test. They were offended because their child always goes to bed at 9. Well, good. It wasn’t for you then. It was a REMINDER. Just like we have rules not to bring a gun. Suzy may not even own a gun but we still post the sign. Disregard what isn’t yours and remember, I have students who stay up as late as they want every single night. In fact, if you already feed your child breakfast after a good 8 hour sleep, you are way ahead of the game anyway. Sure, that is common sense but not everyone has that. The world may revolve around your kids at home and it should. It just can’t happen at school.
- Be Positive. Children are like sponges and they soak up everything. If you always tell them that you hated math and were bad at it just like them, well, they will believe that they have no chance in math. If you can’t stand the principal, keep it to yourself. Be positive about learning. We are all working for the same goal.
Happy New School Year!