School will start very soon. Some of you already know which teacher your child will have, others, like those in Montclair, won’t find out to a couple of days before school starts. But your hope is that your child has a great school year. You hope he or she gets a great teacher. Your child’s teacher has some hopes too.
We asked several teachers, from preschool to high school, what they want parents to know. Here is their advice, which will benefit your child, family, the teacher and the class:
Tyna Thomassie, an award-winning West Orange High School teacher, offers these tips to parents:
- Make initial contact. Leave the best ways and times to get in touch with the parent, email and cell.
- Let the teacher know you support them and your child’s education, and that means that you are going to extend a little faith in the teacher. Let the teacher know that you’re there if needed, but don’t start maneuvering in your student’s shoes. Don’t do their homework or write their essays. But let a teacher know when they are having a struggle writing their essays and doing their homework.
- Don’t rush in and fight your child’s battles for them. Great growth is possible when a child and a teacher are given the space to figure out a resolution together versus a teacher and a parent negotiating a design that leaves the child out of the equation.
- When a teacher reaches out and says they need your help, be there.
- So many parents hover and try to control or steer their child’s every move. Let your kid breathe a little. Particularly in high school.
- If there is a pattern you’re not liking or a problem, reach out and express your concern. State the problem as you see it and then listen (note I didn’t say ‘ask for an explanation’). Don’t immediately assume that your lawyer must be your next phone call.
- If you don’t get a resolution or an answer, ask your teacher to give you insight into your child’s learning experience. Ask the teacher to describe how your child best learns. What does the teacher see in class? In the work being produced? Ask the teacher if there is anything you can do to support the teacher and your child as they work together in the year.
- Let the teacher know if there is an issue at home (a trauma, an upset, an illness, a change in circumstances). Information is a very helpful thing.
- A thank you note for something you admire or hear your child talking about really, really improves morale in a rather low morale world. Let your student’s teacher know when there was a mini-victory in the “care” department.
- Be honest. If there is something that is troubling you, let the teacher know and ask if there is anything you should know or are not understanding. Try not to assume that you are in an adversarial relationship with an incompetent teacher.
- Talk to your child about school. Ask about what your child is reading. Ask if there has been a meaningful experience this week. Inquire about your student’s world and express your admiration for what they show you — resist suggesting what might make it better unless they ask. Ask them to talk about their challenges and successes. Eat dinner with your child and converse.
- Read in front of your child. Turn the tv and the cell phone off and read! And that doesn’t just mean one parent — both parents should show they care.
That would make me love you, Mr. and Mrs. Parent!
Maggie Granados, Head of School at the Montclair Cooperatve School offers these words of wisdom:
When thinking about getting back to school (or starting school for the first time) good teachers are thinking about getting the whole child – and the whole parent! – ready.
- Physically, now is the time to start dialing closer and closer to the bedtime and meal routines you will follow during the school year. Abruptly switching off summer mode the day or two before school starts will leave everyone out of sync.
- Intellectually, how are those summer assignments coming along? Forcing any required schoolwork into the last week of school may leave a foul taste in your child’s mouth and needlessly build apprehension for the year ahead. So get any last must-do’s done now if you can.
- And what about your “parent homework”? Was this the year you were going to start, or re-start, reading to your child or as a family? Get your child used to a new food or teaching her to tie those those shoes? Why not introduce some of those healthy habits of mind and body now and let them develop roots and grow into the school year?
- Finally, don’t leave the important social considerations of school out of the mix. It is always easier to enter the classroom when the faces are familiar, so whether through playdates at the park or school playground, under the sprinkler at your house, or over pizza in town, reconnecting with school friends and reaching out to any new students joining the class goes a long way for everyone to get socially ready to return to school.
If you are new to a school, don’t hesitate to ask the school to help you forge those connections for your child. It makes the transition to school for parent and child so much easier if your son or daughter isn’t just saying goodbye to you at the school door, but also walking into a room of new and old friends.
Chris Leonard, Director of Clinical and Educational Programs at Sage Day Schools, offers these words of advice:
- When your child comes home upset about a grade, or not making the team, or having his seat changed, take a deep breath. Before calling the teacher (or coach), see if you can help your child speak to the teacher/coach, etc., thus gaining practice in self-advocacy.
- Don’t just ask your child if she has homework, ask her to explain it to you.
- Don’t pay for grades! It doesn’t teach responsibility, self-reliance or the intrinsic value of learning.
- Come to Back to School night and meet the teacher(s). Attend Parent/Teacher Conferences too, even if the news is all good!
A Montclair preschool teacher offers this advice:
- I think a child appreciates a reminder of their parents’ love during the day. For instance, it’s pretty neat when a child opens their lunch box and sees a special note from mom/dad, a slice of bread shaped into a heart, or even a special treat. Many parents work long days and don’t spend a lot of time with their children. This is a small way of parents showing their children they’re always thinking about them.
- Drop off your child on time, if he/she is attending a preschool with a structured environment. This allows the child time to transition to school mode before circle time. One thing some parents may not be aware of is that a whole lot of learning also goes on during circle time. If a child misses it, he/she is also missing out on learning opportunities. Circle time also helps prepare the child for the day ahead. (Not to mention that when a child enters the classroom late it also causes a disruption to the whole class.)
- Make sure your child is comfortable throughout the day by dressing her/him in weather-appropriate clothing and even leaving an extra sweater or jacket in their cubby.
- Label clothing. This applies to preschool and elementary school. If a child misplaces his/her item of clothing, it can easily be returned to him/her.
- It’s okay if your child has not perfected reading or writing by the time they leave preschool. Commend children on their small efforts and achievements. During these early years, it is so important to help shape a child’s personality, teach them to function with their peers and refine their conflict resolution/problem solving skills.
A South Orange – Maplewood elementary school teacher tells incoming parents:
- Play games with your children and let them LOSE! There are 20 (or so) other children in the class and they are not always going to be the winner.
- Talk to your child about their school day.
- Read to or with your child everyday. Set aside a time that is for homework. During this time, you should also sit with them and do your own homework, whether it is balancing a checkbook, writing a thank you note…anything.
- I also tell parents that they can stay in line with their child but once the bell rings, they need to leave. The children will be escorted by the teachers to their room. I allow (and many other teachers do), parents to volunteer throughout the school year but the busiest time of the day is morning and the morning routine is best left without distractions.
Carolyn DeVito, the Assistant Executive Director at the Montclair Community Pre-K, adds:
The best advice we can give to families on their child’s start to a new school year to to relax and enjoy. Of course, we could speak about the importance of a routine and being well-organized, but really it all comes down to having a positive attitude about this new adventure. The children will pick up on any apprehension that the parents may have. In most cases, it is the parent who determines whether or not the school year is successful. Once school begins talk to your child about their day, ask questions and listen to the answers. Read what the teachers send home; ask questions and support what is happening in the classroom. Most importantly spend time together because it is the memories that you make together that your child will remember for years to come.