It is that time of year again where the hot summer days have finally arrived and instead of hitting the beaches it is time for our children to hit the classrooms. Teachers are already hard at work preparing their lesson plans and classrooms. I have shared this advice before when school is getting ready to start and will share it again in the hopes that it can make the transition from summer to school a bit easier. In our family, we have one left in elementary school, three in middle school, a senior in high school, and a junior in college. We are even getting ready to send our 1 year old to day care for the first time. It is always a stressful week of preparation and change for all households as the lighter summer schedule disappears and the more structured school day returns. We all think about what we need to do to prepare our children to go back to school, but this is a list for preparing yourself (the parent) for the changes ahead. I feel the anxiety of the changes that are coming and already know I have to start preparing myself for another graduation that will be here in a blink. It is important that I note my stress levels as a parent and prepare myself accordingly.
First off, it is important that we pay attention to our own sleep levels. It goes without saying that children need to be going to bed at a set time during the school year, but so do parents. We are overwhelmed with switching gears from summer to school time, and we need to account for that by getting more sleep so we can be ready for the tasks ahead.
You should expect to be bombarded with the task of getting school supplies for your child. They will not be inexpensive and you need to prepare in advance for that. The teachers will need you to be on your game here and get the supplies on time. Imagine how overwhelming it is for teachers to receive those supplies for 30+ students all at once, but even worse would be to get those supplies late and trying to account for who has turned in what supplies. Respect the position that the teacher is in with this chaos and make a commitment to complete all of these tasks on time and just how you are asked to do it. Your teacher already knows how expensive school supplies are so there isn’t a need to complain to them. They are spending way more than you to prepare their classrooms for the school year and their time during the first few weeks can be better spent getting to know your child rather than tracking down the 2” binders you were supposed to provide.
No matter how hard it is for you to accept, your child has been placed in a class with many hours of thought behind it. The schools have done their best to make sure your child is with a friend or two and has been matched with the teacher that best suits their learning style. You can spend hours or even days worrying about this, but that time can be much better spent volunteering in the classroom and getting to know your new teacher rather than texting your friends or meeting with the administration so that you can complain about your selected teacher. They don’t get to pick the parents they want to deal with and I can promise you that they have way more concern about the group of parents they now will be managing than you do about their specific teaching style. Trust the system and help the teachers.
It is important from the first day of school or even at the ice cream social where you meet your teacher to be respectful of their time. When you meet your teacher and give them the supplies you have carefully selected, realize that there are 30 other parents that need to do the same thing. If every parent insists on 10 minutes with the teacher, it would take hours to do a simple meet and greet. Recognize that meet and greet means just that. “Mrs. Smith, this is my daughter Hannah. She is looking forward to seeing you on Monday. We are going to enjoy some ice cream now and will see you next week.” This is not the time to explain every little nuance regarding your child and where you think they should sit in the classroom and how they only like to sit with their best friend. In reality, you probably don’t need to explain any of that to the teacher. They will learn all of this in the first few hours of the school day just by observing your child.
I think it is very important to make sure that someone from your household goes to the open house that is held in the first few weeks. This is your opportunity to learn the rules of the classroom that you can help reinforce at home. This is your chance to sign up to volunteer in the classroom and also set your time for the first parent teacher conference of the year. These are all very important tasks and if you go to the open house, you can save the teacher the struggle of tracking you down for all of this at a later date. The more time a teacher spends tracking you down, the less time he/she has to teach your child. If you do your part, the classroom runs more efficiently and your need to communicate and interrupt teaching time goes down.
Finally, if you are going to communicate with your teacher, think long and hard about that communication. If you have a legitimate concern about your child, the most effective thing you can is to ask your teacher for a time to meet. Authoring a two page e-mail in the middle of the day is counter-productive for you and the teacher that has to read it. Sending an e-mail that your son has a play date after school and needs to ride a different bus home is poor planning on your part and unfair to the teacher that now has to manage your social life. Think very carefully every time you sit down to write an e-mail. Your e-mail is an interruption for a hard-working teacher and it is important that you make sure that interruption is for a worthy cause. The more respect you show for teachers that are working hard to educate your children, the more likely your child will succeed this year. The more you stay out of your child’s daily tasks at school, the more likely they are to take charge of their life today and in the future. Taking time to prepare yourself for the school year is one important step to ensuring success for teachers and showing your child a path of independence and responsibility.