It's that busy time of year when teachers are in countless meetings, training and in-service days. They are also setting up and cleaning their classrooms to get ready for students. In my own classroom, the nametags are on the hooks, the mailboxes and cubbies are labeled, and a hand-written welcome note together with a bookmark and a new pencil sits on each child's desk.
As a teacher and a parent, I get a bird's eye view of how teachers and parents can team up to provide the best education possible for a child. Here are a few things I think most teachers would want parents to know as the school year begins.
1. Share what you know! You are your child's first and best teacher. You know what excites, frustrates, and inspires your child. Fill out any surveys sent home, send in insights about your child via email or notes, or stop by for a quick hallway chat. Teachers want to learn quickly how to best reach and teach your child.
2. We are on the same team in the best interest of your child. I know it seems obvious, but having conversations from the perspective of how we can best work together can be very powerful and productive. Amazing things can happen when parents and teachers team up. I've seen children make tremendous progress, gain confidence, and take on new challenges when teachers and parents communicate frequently and team up to support each other. Sometimes, we may have different perspectives and opinions, but teachers (like parents) want what is best for the child both emotionally and academically, and will work tirelessly for it.
3. Read the school and classroom notes, newsletters and website. That is the best way to stay connected to what is happening on a regular basis. It is incredibly frustrating to provide lots of communication only to be told at a conference, "I never knew that!" Or, "that is the first time I've heard about that!" We all are busy, but if you want to be informed, you've got to participate by reading the material.
Be on the lookout for the best way to communicate with your child's teacher. This information is usually contained in the opening letter. Some teachers work best with email, and others would rather chat on the phone. It is helpful to know this at the beginning of the year.
4. Sleep is very important. In the first few weeks of school, please help your child adjust to the school schedule by encouraging earlier bedtimes and less weekend activity. The change to school hours is hard for some children, especially those who shifted toward later waking and bedtimes during the summer.
This is especially true for adolescents whose bodies need more sleep anyway, and middle and high schools usually start earlier in the morning. Young children, particularly those starting kindergarten, will likely be exhausted from kindergarten and will need much more rest.
5. Establish a quiet, organized space for reading and doing homework, and provide a structured, screen-free time for doing it. Parents are so busy working, making meals, cleaning up and organizing schedules that it is easy to overlook the set up of a productive homework environment. We know that giving kids the time, space and support to do their homework is essential to them feeling successful. Carve out the time and space and your child will feel more organized and prepared for school.
6. Read to and with your child every day. Reading aloud to your child is the single best thing you can do to promote his or her academic success. You will build knowledge, increase vocabulary, model reading comprehension strategies and being a literate person in society. Many parents think reading aloud is only for little kids. There are benefits from reading to children all the way through adolescence.
Here's to a great school year, and to the power and impact of parents and teachers working together to help children thrive and succeed!