I’m a former teacher and I’ve taught pre-K, kinder, 1st grade, and 3rd grade. With the start of the school year fast approaching again, I’ve decided to compile my top 10 tips for parents to start the year off right AND continue to have a great experience all year long.
1) Attend “Meet the Teacher”
- Be on time and dress appropriately (no marijuana/alcohol propaganda, booty shorts, or cleavage baring tops, please)
- Have ALL of your child’s school supplies. Your child’s teacher likely wants to get a head start on labeling, counting, and organizing supplies
- Remember, this is NOT the time for a parent/teacher conference. Shake hands, introduce yourself and then back up so the teacher can start building rapport with your child. That relationship is the most crucial anyway.
- Attending this day helps to ease those first day jitters.
Sign up to volunteer either in the classroom or somewhere in the building. You don’t have to be the homeroom mom, but you can still be a “partner” in your child’s education. This may mean sorting books in the library or monitoring behavior in the cafeteria, but it’s great to have some insight into the environment where your child spends 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Plus, you’ll get to know some of the kids and staff of the school (the good, the bad, and the ugly!).
3) Schedule a parent-teacher conference early.
Due to the fact that your child’s teacher is probably cutting, coloring, pasting, laminating, copying, and organizing until her fingers are bloody, the first week of school is THE worst time for a parent to try to get some alone time with the teacher. Believe me, your child’s teacher is maxed out and wants to take her shoes off & pop open a bottle of wine by the end of the day that whole first week! However, most conference days aren’t until early October so you should ask to schedule a conference sometime in the first few weeks, especially if your child has special needs or a learning disability. Be prepared to discuss:
- How is my child adapting to the classroom?
- Who are his/her best friends in class? In the grade? Who do they play with at recess?
- What’s your homework policy (if this hasn’t already been covered)?
- For tests, will there be a review or a study guide? How much notice will we get?
- What reading level will they need to be at by mid-year and end-of-year?
- What skills should we start working on now?
- What’s your classroom management style? Discpline? Etc.
- Tell the teacher any important information including divorce/separation, any past traumas in or out of school, new siblings at home or on the way, whether or not you just moved, any new jobs for family members, etc. This ALL impacts learning and “teach” needs to know!
4) Have learning materials at home.
For Pre-K through 2nd grade, ask for sight word cards or buy some from the local teacher store or print a copy from an online resource. Knowing sight words will improve your child’s reading level and fluency tenfold! You can also get math practice book, handwriting paper, vocabulary cards, and educational games at the teacher’s stores. Check out learning websites like spellingcity.com, Tumblebooks and Pebblego
5) Have lunch with your child.
Try to have lunch with your child a few times throughout the school year. This is a great way to get to know their classmates, see them interact with peers, and help teacher’s and administration recognize your face.
6) Prepare your home for learning!
- Set up a homework spot in their room, office, playroom, or living area. Equip it with scissors, pencils, crayons, staplers, paperclips, markers, glue, rulers, construction paper, notebook paper, etc.
- Set up a basket by the door or mudroom where kids can drop off important papers. You may even have one slot for newsletters and one for things that need to be signed immediately and then returned.
- Have a calendar in a high traffic area with important dates (field day, field trips, class plays, tests, project due dates, sport’s games, etc)
7) Have a weekly family meeting.
Meet on Sunday or Monday evenings and discuss the week ahead. Ask kids what’s due this week, what they might be learning about, or what they’re reading in school. Find out how things are going with the teacher, classmates, and friends as well. Preparing for the week ahead and self-reflection are both great skills for your children to start building upon now.
8) Get ready for school the night before!
Bedtime and bathtime are no longer enough. To avoid a hectic morning, prep the evening before:
- Have kids pick out what they’re wearing & either pull it out of the drawers or hang it on their closet door
- Have them decide what they’re going eat for breakfast. This prevents 10 minutes standing in front of the fridge, staring blankly
- Pack lunches before bed. Kids 5 and up can help pack their lunches and they should be included in this process. Studies show that kids eat better when they’ve had a part in the cooking or planning.
- Stuff backpacks, sign forms, and place projects IN THE CAR or by the door WITH the backpacks.
9) Communicate with the teacher often via email or text.
You’ve got to remember that not only does the teacher have 24 kids she’s responsible for, but she also has 48 parents, sometimes double that if you count blended families. Add on team meetings, staff trainings, staff meetings, workshops, technology training, grading papers, and curriculum planning and she’s already working 50-60 hours a week! Cut her some slack and check in with her via email or text so she can respond quickly and efficiently.
10) Allow your CHILD to solve problems & make decisions.
- For heaven’s sake, please don’t do your child’s homework or school projects. If the project is a disaster, let it be THEIR disaster. You can brainstorm ideas together, ask them if they’d like suggestions, but then back off and allow them to be the creators. Many teachers will even give failing grades when it’s obvious the parent did the project, and your child can’t take pride in their work if it’s your work.
When your child presents a problem to you, try the 5 step problem solving method:
- Use empathy. “Oh no, what a bummer” or “Oh, that’s never good” etc.
- Lovingly hand the problem back to them by saying, “What do you think you’re going to do about that?”
- Get permission to share IDEAS (not advice). “Would you like to hear some ideas?”
- Give a couple of choices that “some kids” have tried, but try to avoid starting with “I think” or “You should”…Ex: “Some kids try talking with the teacher and sharing their feelings” or “Some kids try being extra sweet to kids who are mean” etc.
- Leave it up to the child to solve, or not solve the problem. “Let me know how it works out for you”.
- Children who are allowed to make small mistakes early on have an opportunity to learn from those mistakes and them are less likely to make big mistakes later in life.
- Remember this, “A parent who always remembers, has a child who always forgets”. If you do the thinking and worrying for them, how will they ever learn to think for themselves?
If you’d like to learn more of my positive parenting strategies, you can attend one of my “Parenting the Love and Logic Way” workshops. Register for the south Austin class at at austinbornloveandlogic.eventbrite.com or the north Austin location at babyearthloveandlogic.eventbrite.com
What do you do to have a successful school year?