We did everything we were supposed to do: We purchased everything on the school-supply list, even the optional stuff for the class to share. We’ve gotten the requisite back-to-school haircut. We’ve bought a new school wardrobe, trekking from store to store looking for the best deal. And if you’re anything like me, you may have even drilled your kiddo to make sure he remembers the “easy” stuff he is supposed to remember from last year.
Your kid is ready, you’re ready – now what? We all know that we should speak to our children’s teacher before school starts – after all, they didn’t set up “Meet the Teacher” nights for nothing. But for many of us, how often to check in during the school year is a mystery. I know from personal experience that it’s critical to stay in constant communication with your child’s teacher, even outside of scheduled progress reports and reviews. During my son’s kindergarten year, I didn’t push when the teacher told me it would take one month for me to get a chance to chat with her about my son’s instruction. But after a friend’s prompting, I realized: The teacher doesn’t know me, nor does she know my child. After a quick email that explained in detail where he left off in preschool, she understood that she needed to tweak some assignments to fit his needs.
That friend, Christine Miller, just happens to be an experienced educator and school counselor who agreed to provide some starting points to help you best navigate your child’s school year.
At The Beginning Of The Year
We all fill out the paperwork our teachers send home, but what else can we ask our child’s teacher? According to Christine, it’s important to ask how your child is settling in and whether he or she has a place in the classroom community.
“If your child is new to school (or new to that school), finding his or her place in the flow of the classroom might be more important than anything academic,” she says. The first two weeks of school is when the teacher learns each child and builds that community. But, she adds, if you notice your child is coming home each day with negative reports, don’t hesitate to set up a meeting with the teacher. “Not to confront him or her, but to gather information and see how you can support your child.”
I know from personal experience that these meetings really opened the lines of communication with our son’s teacher. She knew that she could come to us with any concerns, and we knew we could do the same.
Mid-Year Or After The First Progress Report
At this point in the year, it’s important to check in with the teacher to ask if there are any particular strengths or weaknesses you can work on at home with your child.
“Parents are experts on their children, but teachers get to know children in a special say,” says Christine. “Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask your child’s teacher what he or she see. You may find your child has a talent you never knew or is struggling with something you don’t see.”
She also encourages parents to ask about specific issues instead of broadly asking, “How is my child doing.”
“A doctor can heal you faster if you share information about the specific pain you’re feeling, and teacher can best support you and help your child when he or she knows the issues with which you’re most concerned,” says Christine.
Remember, the teacher is there to help your child, and the best way to do that is by making sure you are on the same page.
Good luck with this new school year!