What teachers want parents to know
Summer is almost over and soon the school bell will be ringing. Teachers are already getting ready for the new school year and hoping parents of their students are doing the same. The following is a list of things teachers want parents to know that can help everyone have a great school year. Many of the items are just common knowledge, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded during this busy time.
Make sure your child has the tools they need to succeed in school this year. Ask for a copy of your child’s class supply list. Each teacher may have a slightly different supply list depending on the set up of her classroom. School supplies are very inexpensive in August and September, so stock up then. If there is a financial need, please tell the teacher privately or go to the school counselor. There are resources available for those who need help. If you are able to help those in need, ask the teacher what items are needed or give her a gift card to purchase supplies for needy students.
Stay in contact. Don’t wait until something turns into a problem. Contrary to many peoples’ thinking, teachers are not mind-readers. They might not realize there is a problem concerning your child unless you tell them. During the first week of school, give the teacher all of your contact information, especially email addresses and cell numbers for texting. As a teacher, I was able to ward off some problems in the classroom by sending a text message right then to a parent when a problem was occurring. I could also send good news when a child had a good day. Parents would also email or text me when a child was missing something from homework, and I could usually attach it to an email to save parents a trip back to the school. Phone calls are good for issues that require more time for discussion. But texting and email are quicker for shorter messages and don’t require both parties to be free at the same time. Also, there should be a face-to-face parent/teacher conference (usually in the first grading period) to note the student’s progress and discuss solutions to any problems. Don’t wait until April to start worrying if your child is going to be retained or promoted.
Communication (Part 2)
There’s an old saying - Don’t believe everything your child tells you about school, and the teacher won’t believe everything the child tells her about home. Most children will portray themselves as innocent and not tell the whole story. Parents and teachers should get all the facts about a situation concerning the child instead of jumping to conclusions. If possible, try to always be positive about the teacher and the school in front of the child. Children learn better in a positive environment at home and at school. Keeping the lines of communication open is essential to having a good year.
Find out how homework is going to work in your child’s classroom. Is there a homework sheet? Can assignments (like Spelling practice) be done ahead of time to lessen homework time on busy afternoons? How many long-term projects are going to be assigned during the year? Teachers want parents to be involved with their child’s homework. But please don’t do it for them. Students don’t learn if the parent does the work. And teachers usually know. Also, let the teacher know if your child is spending hours and hours on homework. Adjustments can be made for students with learning problems.
Teachers can’t be everywhere all the time. They can’t know everything that is being said or done to your child in situations like before school, at lunch, and at recess. At the beginning of each school year I would teach this three step process to my students to help them learn to stand up for themselves. 1. Tell them to stop. Tell them you don’t like it. 2. Get away from the person if possible (ie – play on the swings instead of jumping rope). 3. Tell an adult nearby about the problem if it continues. This sounds simple, but it works for most elementary school problems. When students would come to me to tell on someone, I would always ask, “Did you tell them to stop?” Many times they had not even stood up for themselves before jumping to step 3. It’s important that students have the skills to be assertive without being violent, but also to know an adult is nearby if needed. Some children are timid and won’t come to the teacher with their concerns. For these children I had a simple solution. Any child could write me a note about a problem and put it in the bottom of the basket where work was taken up. I went through that basket every day before I went home and I would see the notes. That way I could deal with the situation the next day. Most teachers have a place where a note could be put and it would be seen by only her/him. Teachers want students to be comfortable in their classrooms, but the teacher is focused on what she is teaching and might not see everything that occurs. A teacher is appreciative of students who let her know in a non-disruptive way about problems in the dynamic of her classroom.
Make sure your child attends school regularly. School attendance is important and children miss a lot of instruction if they miss even a few days. However, don’t send sick children to school. They will not feel like learning anything anyway and could be passing germs to others. Also, parents should make sure the school has their current contact information so they can be reached quickly in case of an illness at school.
Students who come to school late almost every day are a constant disruption to the learning process. These students miss valuable instructional time, and teachers must devise some way to “catch-up” the tardy student. Emergencies and medical appointments are understandable. It is the students who are habitually late because mom/dad can’t get up on time that aggravate teachers.
Please send your child to school in clean clothes on clean bodies. One unwashed child can cause the whole classroom to smell bad and take students’ minds off of their learning.
Parents should clean out their child’s backpack each night. Important information is usually sent home in the backpack. Look through any folders or papers in the backpack, too. Take out any trash. (I’ve actually found a spoiled carton of milk from breakfast in a child’s backpack.)
Parents should do a weekly head check on their child for lice. Teachers cannot do this in the classroom. If any are found, please treat your child’s head and bedding. Notify the school nurse so she can be looking out for other cases.
All teachers can use help in their classrooms. Some ways parent volunteers can help are – arranging refreshments for class parties, listening to children read, stapling or tearing out papers, setting up science experiments, using flashcards with students, or many other things. Even if you can’t come into the classroom to do things, let the teacher know if you are available to send things for parties, science experiments, and other class activities.
These are just a few things that can make the school year go better. Teachers want your child to succeed. If the students, parents, and teachers work together, everyone can have an awesome year of learning.
About the author
Miriam S. Youngblood is a retired school teacher who taught in Greenville County for 36 years.