The beginning of the new school year brings up so many issues for children as well as for their parents. It connotes passages and changes and new beginnings. In the midst of these new beginnings parents are naturally anxious for reassurance that their child will be happy. Often their anxiety causes inappropriate behavior as they approach the teacher. Everyone offers lists of what to do to get your child off to a good start, but this blog is to help you, the parent, get off to a good start with the teacher.
In the past I have had parents come in to the classroom the week before school to tell me how gifted or how sensitive their child is. One mother actually scanned the books I was using for my reading groups and told me which book her son should be reading. Another mother came into the classroom during the first week of second grade to let me know that her son was doing square roots, and would I please make sure to give him more of that kind of math right away! While all of the above parents had the best of intentions, and wanted the best for their children, none of them realized that I had not had a chance to get to know these little ones yet. Also, do not expect a report about your child at a Back-to-School Night or at an orientation. These times are for information, not individual conferences.
If a child has allergies, or needs special medication or has a medical condition that affects his or her day, PLEASE let the teacher know immediately. Otherwise, allow the teacher to enjoy getting to know your little one. If there are socialization issues or emotional issues or academic issues, the teacher will find out very quickly. Children let themselves be known and seen easily. It's the natural part of being a child. I have always asked that parents give me one month before I invited them in to volunteer or chat. By then I have information and perceptions of the child to share and discuss with the parents.
If your child comes home upset or unhappy about something, listen, listen, listen. Try not to jump to conclusions or rush to reassure your child that nothing is wrong. Many times young children report things that might not be exactly accurate because they are waiting for your reaction. Encourage your child to try to problem solve with the teacher during a recess time, or give it a few more days to see if it feels better, but always let the child feel heard. If a week goes by and your child is still talking about what is not right at school, then schedule a parent-teacher meeting to see how you and the teacher can make things better.
My standard question after school for my own children was "What is the best thing that happened at school today?" or "Tell me one thing you did today that was different from yesterday?" If you ask questions that elicit thinking about the day, you will get more information. I always felt frustrated when I asked my children what they did at school and they answered "Nothing." Usually, nothing could have been further from the truth, but they were tired and not ready to talk about the day yet. The best times for sharing their days were either at the dinner table when we each took a turn sharing our favorite things, or before bedtime when baths and stories were completed.
Teachers also invite parents to use email to communicate, which I found to be both a time saver as well as an easy opportunity to share little issues. In that way the teacher can have whatever information that needs to be shared quickly. Never expect an immediate answer, but by emailing, the teacher will have necessary information.
As a teacher I loved hearing from parents at appropriate times, and I loved getting to know the parents as much as I enjoyed getting to know the children. It's all good, especially if you give the teacher some time.