Starting a new school year can be just as daunting for us parents as it is for our children. Some years, our kid instantly bonds with their teacher and other years, it’s a struggle from start to finish. You can be better prepared for the year ahead by following these tried-and-true Do’s and Don’ts!
DON’T Expect the School To Know Your Child Better Than You Do, Meet the Teacher!
No matter how skilled or educated a teacher or school administrator may be, they are still meeting your child for the first time and dealing with dozens (or in the case of a School Administrator, hundreds) of other children. While this can have a positive effect, as it helps us receive objective feedback about our child, we also need to trust our own parental instincts. Many parents blindly trust the school system to do what’s best for their child when it is in fact the parent’s job to ensure their child is getting the attention they need. In the words of a teacher friend of mine, “the parents who are willing to go to bat for their kids are the ones that get whatever they want, simply because most parents don’t take the time to notice.”
DO Listen to Your Gut
When my twins started Kindergarten, I was convinced by the school administration that there was no way the boys could be in the same class and that it went against “school policy” to do so. Even though my gut instinct was to keep the boys in the same class (at least in these early years), I respected their experience and trusted their insight. Boy were they wrong! After fighting all the way to the District level to get the boys in the same class for the 1st grade, it was quickly evident that being together offered the boys familiarity and a sense of calm that was clearly lacking in the previous year. If I had listened to my gut instinct and not taken no for an answer, I’m sure Kindergarten would have been a much better experience for all of us.
DON’T Expect Every Classroom Environment To Be The Same
Every teacher has different levels of expectation. In the last few years, my twins have had teachers who demand complete stillness and other teachers who would encourage them to move somewhere else when they’re having a hard time sitting still. They’ve had teachers who think speaking out is a serious offence while others were more relaxed about it and encouraged open discussions.
DO Ask The Right Questions
Knowing what’s expected of your child in the classroom can help you understand any struggles they’re having at school while also cultivating an open-for-discussion home environment that tells your child, “I’m on your team”.
I suggest using the parents-only Back To School night as an opportunity to met the teacher and ask your child’s teacher probing questions that will help you understand the landscape of the classroom while spurring on insightful discussions about their teaching style.
Some questions that may help you understand what a day in the classroom will be like for your child:
In your opinion, what are a few examples of actions that require discipline and what types of consequences would those actions receive?
Do children receive warnings when they misbehave or in the event that a child already knows the rules, can we expect immediate consequences?
Besides the general rules that are enforced school-wide, what are the most important rules you enforce in your classroom?
How often do you provide feedback on how our child is doing in the classroom?
What kind of communication tools do you prefer? Phone calls? Emails? May we contact you freely?
DON’T Give The Teacher a List of Your Child’s Problems
Sometimes we, as parents, label our kids and get stuck boxing them into our own expectations. For example, they spend a few years not liking broccoli so for the rest of their lives, we assume that they still don’t like broccoli. Obviously it’s not the end of the world if our kid misses out on a lifetime of broccoli consumption but what about the more serious assumptions we make of our kids?
“He has a hard time making friends.”
“She doesn’t read well.”
“He’s not into sports.”
“She doesn’t like math.”
Labels like these can quickly become self-fulfilling prophecies and sabotage our kids chance at success in certain areas. Giving our child’s teacher a list of labels not only taints the teacher’s view of our child, it skews their ability to make their own assessment.
DO Give Solutions
Of course none of our kids are angels so when acknowledging the challenges my child has, I try not to influence the teacher with my own preconceived notions. For instance, I know my one son is a very active, kinetic learner who has a hard time in a classroom environment. But instead of spelling out all Jack’s behavior issues (“he’s a handful”, “he can’t sit still”, etc.), I provide more constructive thoughts like, “Jack needs to be moving all the time. Tapping his foot or holding something in his hands will help him better focus on what you’re saying.” By focusing on the solutions rather than the problem, I’m empowering the teacher to better manage my child’s behavior and allowing room to discuss my child’s positive qualities.