The school year will be starting for many students (and parents) in just a few short days. For some, the school year has already started. As I pass other parents at dance lessons or chat at a play date, I see the looks of hesitation or elation in their eyes.
As a teacher, I remember the days of welcoming parents to school at the beginning of a new school year, watching the younger kids walk in hesitantly as they cautiously check out their new surroundings and the older kids strutting around like they rule the school. Their parents follow closely behind, with looks of concern, wondering what this school year will hold. Perhaps they are hoping that it is better than the last school year.
Now, I am one of those parents who will be trailing her kid around crowded halls, peeking into each room to catch a glimpse of her new teachers. As we go to open house at my daughter’s school, I know that teachers have stayed late each day, after schedules jam-packed with meetings. They have returned to school during the summer to clean floors and desks with Clorox wipes, staple up bright bulletin boards, and copy endless handouts to prepare for this evening. I see them standing at the door of each bright room, welcoming parents.
I remember from experience, that behind their bright smiles, teachers have some things they wish they could tell you. Not about how to parent your child, that is your job. But about how to make them more successful in the eight hours each day they spend in school.
So, I asked teachers what they wish they could tell parents that would make kids more successful in school. Here are some of their answers:
1. Set The Tone
Ms. Lakata, an elementary teacher says, “Value education! So many of my American children struggle in school, while my Burmese children flourish, despite not speaking the language. I attribute that to parents’ valuing the education and the opportunities afforded their children.”
Let your child see that you value education. Make sure they know that to you, their education is an important priority. This should be apparent in the way you talk, but also in what you make time for at home.
As the popular adage goes, “A great education starts at home.” As a parent, your attitude towards school and the way you speak about teachers, principals and school, in general, has an enormous impact on your child. Excitement is contagious, but so is cynicism and anxiety. Make sure your attitude about school reflects the attitude you are hoping to see in your child.
2. Establish a Routine so that Your Kid Comes to School Prepared
Ms. Soper, a middle school teacher, advises that parents start, “a routine and discuss expectations towards the end of summer.”
It is important to establish routines right away for bedtimes, homework completion, and organization.
School-age kids between the ages of 5 and 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep per night. It is best to have a consistent bedtime to ensure that kids get enough sleep. Teenagers need at least 9 hours of sleep. Going without electronic devices such as T.V.’s, video games or phones for an hour before bed will allow kids time to wind down. Keeping electronic devices out of kid’s rooms ensures that they get the sleep they need. Lack of sleep can cause hyperactivity, focusing issues, short-term memory loss and irritability that make it difficult for children to do their best in school.
Set a certain time each day to complete homework depending on your child’s grade level; then stick to it. If they do not have enough assignments to fill that time, have them read over notes from class, review vocabulary, play learning games, or read a book. Consistent practice and review are what improve retention and make a student successful.
Students will also have a more successful school year if they establish a routine for staying organized. Have a certain place where book bags go; set up a system for getting important papers to and from school; lay out clothes and pack up book bags before bedtime. The morning is a hectic time, especially at 6:00 a.m. before anyone has even finished their first cup of coffee! Making sure everything is in place before bed will help to ensure that your student is prepared and does not forget important items during the morning rush.
Mr. Schafer, a high school teacher, recommends that students,“Come prepared! Even high school students need the basics, but some come to school with nothing but their phone and the clothes on their back.”
Teaching your student to arrive prepared is an important skill for school and life. Students need to attend school regularly and arrive on time. Kids should prepare by reading over notes from the previous day, completing assignments , reviewing, and practicing what they have learned. Being prepared also means that you show up with the necessary supplies. This is something students should be doing on their own by middle and high school. Older students need to learn how to come to school prepared with their bag, important papers, and their lunch just like an adult would arrive with the necessary items for work. This is a life skill. And if they forget, it is important to let them handle the consequences on their own.
3. Don’t Hover or Bail Them Out
Ms. Robb a high school teacher says “Don’t constantly bring your kid something they forgot - like homework or gym clothes. It sounds mean, but in reality, it teaches them to be more responsible and accountable for themselves.”
Your child is capable of even more than you can imagine. Try to let them do as much as possible independently according to what is reasonable for their age, and set your expectations high. Children who have things done for them struggle with becoming independent and responsible.
Mr. Busch, a middle school teacher, reminds parents that, “Students learn from failing. It is ok not to be the best at everything. Sometimes a student needs to fall down so they can get back up stronger than they were before.”
Let your child experience the consequence of their own mistakes. As a parent, it can be heart-wrenching to see your child struggle. But don’t try to get your kids out of a punishment or make excuses for them. Both struggle and failure are necessary to teach resilience. They allow a child to grow and also to understand and appreciate success and achievement, when these are eventually earned. Kids need to know they are capable of producing the outcomes they want.
4. Stay Involved and Communicate
Ms. Hall a middle school teacher, advises parents to, “Talk to your kids when they come home. Find out what they are learning and who’s in their class. Let them know that education and their day is important to you.”
Almost every teacher I talked with mentioned communication as an important factor in school success ― both communication with your child and with their teacher.
Ms. Shipp adds, “Because I teach seniors, many parents are less involved, or feel like they need to be less involved, and this is just not true. Teachers and parents should be communicating throughout the school year, whether there are concerns or not.”
It is a good idea to establish regular communication with your child’s teachers throughout the school year, during good times and during bad times. This is one of the best steps that you can take as a parent to ensure that your child receives a high-quality education. If you have a concern, call or email your child’s teacher, but remember that teachers have between 30 and 150 other students’ parents to also communicate with.
5. Support Teachers and Work as a Team
Ms. Hall continues, “Be involved and supportive, both with your kids and their teachers. Keep in mind that teachers are with your children almost eight hours everyday. Supportive communication between home and school is essential for a great school year.”
If you have an issue with a grade your child received or something the teacher taught, go to the teacher and discuss it. A lot can be worked out through a civil discussion and listening to each other’s concerns. Teachers want you to advocate for your kids, but don’t ask for special treatment or for your kids to be able to get extra chances to raise their grade when they didn’t do the work in the first place. In education, like in the real world, if you do not do your work, there are consequences.
Ms. Shipp, a high school teacher, tells parents, “I won’t believe everything your child tells me about you if you won’t believe everything your child tells you about me.”
Parents and teachers are on the same team. Teachers know that you love your children and they love them too! Trust your teachers and support them so that they can do their best for your child. Teachers and parents both want to see children have a successful school year but the only way to make that happen is by working together! Realize that your student and their teachers are getting oriented to new surroundings and new schedules. The first few weeks can be emotional, hectic, and exhausting for everyone but things will smooth out once routines are established.
Inhale. Exhale. Have an extra cup of coffee and try not to cry too much or cheer too loudly as your kid rides off on that big yellow bus! It’s going to be a great school year!
A version of this article was originally published on The Learning Zone.
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