All parents hope for a great school year for their children. There are dreams for a teacher who will inspire them, friends who will bring them joy and activities that ignite a passion. Everyone knows that each year comes with potential challenges as well. Here, local experts weigh in to provide us with ways to make sure the positives outweigh the negatives.
- Open lines of communication. Make sure the school has your correct contact information and that you have the teacher’s email address. There are many times during the year when the school may need to get in touch with you quickly (and you want them to reach you easily), especially in case of illness. And when you need to reach your child's teacher, email is typically the best form of communication.
- Know the rules. Read through the handbook and highlight important information such as rules for checking out your child for doctor’s appointments.
- Work smarter. Create a clean, distraction-free work area for your child. She will be able to focus better if she can work in a nice clean area. Julie Dill, mother of two elementary-age children and a Moore Public School kindergarten teacher, also recommends keeping basic homework supplies such as pencils, paper, crayons, glue and scissors handy to help facilitate homework completion.
- Be organized. When important paperwork comes home, put it in a designated spot. “A lot of my students struggled with organizational skills, especially transitioning from elementary to middle school,” says Stephanie Higley, former seventh grade reading teacher in Moore Public Schools. “Model organization for your child, require your child to use a planner and show her how you keep track of important information.
Good organization needs to be learned and often results in dramatically improved grades.” Dusty Crabtree, a high school teacher in Yukon, recommends making organization a priority from the beginning of the year. “Set time aside each evening to go through all paperwork, syllabi, forms that need signatures, etc., with your child. Make sure she puts all papers in the appropriate class folders to take to school the next day.”
Dill adds, “Although parents should consistently check for completion of assignments, a student agenda planner or calendar will help encourage organizational independence,” says Julie.
- Write it down. Keep a calendar of important school dates. It is so easy to forget about an early-release day, for example, if it isn’t written on your family planner.
- Help but don’t take over. Guide younger children through their homework without doing it for them. Offer assistance to older children if needed and check homework upon completion. “You’re not helping them if you do it for them,” says Stephanie. “And teachers can totally tell. I did, however, LOVE the handful of parents who took advantage of my suggestion to read our class novels along with us. It was so cool to hear what they thought of it and how the conversation and critical thinking continued at home.”
- Set a consistent bed time. Children really need consistent schedules and they need plenty of rest even more. Even teenagers need to have a bedtime. “Their brains are developing so much at that age and sleep is an incredibly important part of this development,” says Stephanie.
- Eat dinner together. This will be the time when your child lets you know what happened at school. “Ask them about their day—what they've learned, their teachers, the funniest moment, what they're reading, school activities, their friends,” says Stephanie. Dinnertime is a great time to find out what’s making your child tick.
- Communicate with teachers. It takes a team effort to ensure your child’s success, so when you have information that the teacher should know or you have questions for the teacher, let him or her know. Be reasonable about the frequency of communication though. An expectation for a daily email would be inappropriate. Teachers really do not have a lot of down time so limit your communication to when it’s really necessary.
“Building a bridge between home and school ensures success,” says Julie. Kristen Hoyt, Assistant Professor in the School of Teacher Education at Mid-America Christian University, recommends asking the teacher for her planning times so you know when it is best to contact her during the school day. Stephanie agrees. “Establish contact when the school year starts and build rapport throughout the year.”
- Think ahead. Organize everything the night before for the next day. Your morning will run much more smoothly if you do not have to run around preparing things. Starting off on a calm note can give your child a good start to the day. “Putting baskets and hooks by the exit door for backpacks, umbrellas and lunch boxes is helpful,” recommends Kristen.
With an emphasis on planning, organization and communication, you can help your child's school year get started well—and finish successfully, too!