Teachers are gearing up for the school year slowly approaching. We are in staff development workshops, preparing our course websites/course materials, and quickly getting our classrooms ready for your littles (and not so littles) to join us on a journey of learning.
As a parent and teacher, I feel the urge to educate parents on preparing for the school year and provide some tips on dealing with your kiddo’s teacher. Here we go!
- School Supply List – The chatter has already started. Why so many supplies? Why specific name brands? What if we can’t afford it? I even remember being a kid and my mom ditching the school supply list altogether–oh, the embarrassment of being “that kid.” First and foremost, the school supply list helps teachers and their students prepare for the school year. If the school supply list includes a calculator, at some point, it’s likely your child will need a calculator. The school supplies are generally geared toward supporting the classroom and learning activities of the students, and the brands are usually recommended because they are better in quality. Schools are not profiting because you bought Crayola crayons, but students are because they tend to have better materials. If you are running on a budget and expenses seem tight, you can always talk to the front office (or the teacher) regarding alternatives to buying school supplies. Schools have options available to families who are struggling, and there are also other resources if needed. Remember, however, teachers are simply wanting the tools and resources for their students so their classroom is prepared for learning.
- Student Handbook – While I’m not a personal fan of reading instructional manuals, the student handbook (which most schools offer) provides a great baseline for any questions or concerns you may have for students. Principals, counselors and teachers strive to provide as much information as possible in this handy little guide. When in doubt. check the student handbook. If you can’t find it, look online. Also, schools have summer office hours, so you can ask for a copy in advance if one is available.
- Partner in Learning – While I am thankful for ditching my kiddo at school, I am constantly reminded that his teachers aren’t babysitters. They are facilitating my son’s learning. He is just as much responsible for his learning as anyone else. I cannot blame the teacher when he’s not learning. It’s a three-part job: part parent, part child and part teacher (biggest part is the child, of course). When you send your kid to school, partner with the teacher on what’s best for him/her to be successful. Ask your kiddo about homework and/or assignments. When they are home, check his/her bag for any important papers. Many teachers tell me how surprised parents are during parent-teacher conferences. They are shocked their child is struggling with a certain subject. If you’re involved with your child’s learning, you’ll be able to get an idea of where he/she is at in school without any surprises during conferences. If you are frustrated with the Common Core Standards or what the kids are learning, remember that teachers are generally provided a baseline of what students should learn. Sometimes, I wonder about how relevant the math we teach in high school is to the real world. Then, I am reminded it’s not up to me. Lawmakers and much more powerful people have delegated what I’m supposed to teach and that’s what I have to do.
- Communication – Different teachers have varying communication styles. The options include phone, text, in-person or email. Find out what works best for your teacher. He/she may have a preference for one over the other, and it can help when dealing with any situations that arise with your kids. If you get time to chat with the new teacher, feel free to ask what he/she prefers when communicating. It’ll help you truly partner in the education of your kiddo.
- Device Policies – Ok, so I taught high school and I loved it. However, in my first year of teaching, the texting, tweeting, photos and phone calls were out of control. Our hall had a pretty lax policy about cell phones, but once when I asked a student to put her phone away, she shouted, “I’m texting my mom.” I did call the mom to talk to her about this because well, it’s super disruptive during class. If your kiddo has a cell phone, please talk to him/her about safe cell phone use. Yes, they should use it when they need it. No, they do not need it to text and/or make a phone call during class. No they do not need it to tweet, photograph or snapchat something. And, no, they shouldn’t be texting you during class! Basically, you are the keeper of helping to teach your child cell phone etiquette. Remember that friend you went to dinner with and she couldn’t put her cell phone away? Nobody taught her cell phone etiquette! Also, please make sure to understand your teacher’s cell phone policies. I’ve known parents to get very angry that their child’s cell phone was taken away. However, if the cell phone is disrupting learning, it needs to go.
- Gift Policies – I recently went through my re-orientation with the Beaverton School District. We were reminded we must not accept gifts over $50 value. When offering your teacher gifts, be mindful of this policy. If you want to offer a gift around the holidays, watch your budget!
- Preparation for the Littles – If you have a little one, it’s always helpful to talk about new schools, new teachers, new classes and prepare kids for the change. Talk about school; give your child an overview of what to expect. If you can, schedule a mock day of what it looks like. Walk him/her to the bus stop (and/or school). If the school is open, take them to the front office to show them how things work. Give them an idea of what to expect so that they feel prepared. If it’s possible, have them pick their clothes for the first day the day before. Have tissue boxes ready (for you, not them).
The beginning of the school year is stressful. Any change, especially for kids, can be hard and difficult. As teachers, we are working as hard as we can to get your kids ready for an exciting and awesome school year. As a parent, I’m talking to my son about what to expect so that there are no surprises. I’m also freaking out about back to school shopping and my emotional state of mind when he willingly walks into his classroom. That being said, best of luck to you as you prepare for a new school year.