My son is starting back to school this week in Fresno Unified as second grader. We were so lucky last year, to have the type of teacher most parents dream their kid will have at some point. As we prepare for this new year, I’ll admit it – both my son and I are a little apprehensive about getting to know a new teacher, learning her way of doing things, her routine and what second grade in 2014 is all about. But, if I take a step back and think about everything I’ve learned working with kids and teachers for the last 15 years, I know that I already know what we need to do to have a good year with a new teacher. Now, I just have to take my own advice!
5 Tips to having a GREAT school year!
1. Meet the teacher right away, offer your help
As early in the year as possible, meet your child’s teacher in person. Introduce yourself, tell them you’re looking forward to the year ahead and to please let you know how you can be of help. If you’re a working parent and can’t help during the day, let the teacher know you’re happy to help with grading worksheets or cutting die cut apples, etc. from time to time. Volunteering to lighten the load a bit can go a long way with teachers, who almost always work well beyond their workday, all year long.
2. Start the year with an open mind and positive attitude – model that for your child, too
Whether you’ve heard your child is assigned to the teacher who is the Wicked Witch of the West or Glenda, the Good Witch withhold your judgments, keep an open mind and a positive attitude. See for yourself how your child responds to the teacher’s style. One parent’s “horror stories” may actually be more related to their child’s recurrent behavior issues than a “bad” teacher.
3. Open the lines of communication
Ask your child’s teacher how he/she likes to communicate with parents best — by phone? time of day? email? text? Take note of their preferred contact info, and try to stick to their preference. This will likely get you responses most efficiently and allow the teacher to teach and have a personal life, while still answering your questions. If you have concerns about things going on in class, always make an effort to talk to your child’s teacher directly.
One of the things I’ve seen far too often in my career so far is parents hearing from an upset child, then marching to the school’s principal, furious at the “injustice” their child endured. 9 times out of 10 when I’ve seen it, once the teacher has a chance to explain the circumstances (why he/she punished one child but not another, why the child had to sit out recess, why the child couldn’t go on the field trip, etc.) the parent usually sees why the teacher did what they did and things get worked out just fine. Going direct to the child’s teacher whenever possible shows that you trust the teacher wants what’s best for your child and that you respect his/her judgment but want to understand the circumstances. If you’re still unhappy after that, then you can proceed as you see fit.
Finally, think about what you’re communicating – don’t you love it when your child’s teacher takes the time to tell you something great your child did? Well, teachers would love to hear from you when you or your child think they did something great too. Don’t only call/email if you have a concern – offer your compliments too!
4. Establish healthy habits and routines for your child
Help your child to maintain a regular bedtime so he/she is not exhausted in class. Feed your child a healthy breakfast with complex carbs and protein to help them maintain their blood sugar and focus. A breakfast of simple carbs will work for the first hour, but will leave your child’s blood sugar crashing around 10am causing a loss of concentration, sleepiness, irritability and of course, hunger (read: skip the rice crisp cereal). Pack a healthy, balanced lunch if you’re sending cold lunch, and be sure you have the proper ice packs/frozen drinks needed to keep perishable contents safe. No one wants to be the puking kid in P.E.
Designate a homework space in your home and establish homework time as a regular part of your daily schedule. Keep all the needed supplies in the homework space (or in a caddy if the space is the kitchen table or other shared family space) so your child can get to work and keep going, without having to hunt down supplies.
5. Find allies in other parents
You know that whole, “It takes a village to raise a child” cliche? Boom. “They” (whoever they are that say this…) are so right! Don’t be shy, don’t be a snob – get to know the other moms, dads and grandparents at your child’s school. You’ll be amazed at the friendships you will form and the number of people who will rally around not just their own kids’ success, but yours as well. Thanks to my “village” if I’m running late to pickup, I know there are at least 5 parents I can text to start walking my child towards home. If I forget when boxtops are due, I can Facebook message and find out in 30 seconds. When I have a big meeting at work and have to miss a class party, three of my friends text me pictures of my son enjoying his cupcake with friends. Priceless! None of us are perfect at this parenting thing but it sure helps when you have allies to commiserate with on the tough days. Be friendly, make parent friends. TRUST me.
Don’t forget there’s still time to enter our Back to School iPad Giveaway!
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