For many of my friends I’m the designated ‘teacher friend’ and with a new school year approaching, many of them have been asking me for back-to-school advice (it’s solicited, I promise!). Things that come as second nature to me were things they had no idea about . “Do I really need to bring in Ziploc bags?”, “What should I work on at home?”, “How much do they have to read at night?”. This prompted me to ask some of my trusted teacher pals the TOP tips they would give to parents to ensure a successful start of the school year for their child.
You’ve read other lists, but here’s the REAL advice from ACTUAL teachers on how to prepare yourself and your child for a new school year:
- Encourage a work/play balance. Most parents don’t know that teachers actually want our students to have a comfortable work/play balance at home; meaning, we don’t want your child’s entire night devoted solely to reading and homework. GASP! No, it’s the TRUTH. Run outside, join a club, play sports, try a new board game, help cook in the kitchen, make a craft, design, build, create – these activities actually help facilitate learning so leave time for them….PLEASE!
- How is your child going home? We will (frantically) ask your child 720283465 times during the 1st day of school, ‘how are you getting home?’ This is by far the most challenging part of the first day; making sure each brand new face gets to their designated place (I’m officially coining that phrase). After care, bus (including number or color and destination), bus after care, walker, car, or bike rider? Know your plan and keep it consistent for week 1. Make sure your child feels confident that they know exactly how they’re getting home, whose getting them there, whose going with them (siblings or friends), and what will change if we’re involved in a rainy day dismissal situation.
- Start a NEW back-to-school tradition. Make the first day of school more than memorable for your family. Go out for ice cream, have a picnic at your favorite park, take a walk on the beach, or enjoy dinner out. THIS is the beginning of a new year – set goals, make plans, and enjoy the newness of the fresh new year!
- Ask TARGETED questions. Instead of “How was your day?” try these questions that are more likely to solicit better conversation about your child’s school day. “What skill did you learn in math?” “What books did you read/listen to?” “What did you work on in fine arts?” “Who did you play with at recess?” Please I beg of you…never, EVER, under any circumstances, email, text, or utter the following words to your child’s teacher….”he said that you guys did nothing today”.
- Set technology boundaries. Implement a time limit (1-2 hours a day) and encourage breaks (every 30 minutes). Establish rules for who your child can message or chat with and encourage the use of the golden rule while using social media or chatting sites. You can delete, but you never fully erase the words you type to someone. Secure your child’s access by blocking inappropriate sites and using Google’s safe search. Your school district’s website will have teacher approved websites that are designed to reinforce skills taught in the classroom.
- Some supplies WILL end up as community supplies. I know, hot button alert. I recently saw a post that went viral on Facebook, showing a teacher on the side of the road asking for school supply donations for her classroom. So please don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say, because teachers appreciate any and all supplies. With that said, no one, I repeat, NO ONE loves school supplies as much as I do. Nothing makes me happier than a new pack of bold Crayola markers, highlighter crayons, and a 36-pack of freshly sharpened colored pencils. So why would someone with such adoration towards specialized school supplies turn it into community property? Here’s why. Like it or not, community supplies saves time, something teachers don’t have enough of as it is. It creates an opportunity for more INSTRUCTIONAL time. I would rather read another chapter or answer questions for an extra 10 minutes than spend that time locating and opening 18 individual boxes of crayons. HOWEVER, I do feel your pain on not getting to use YOUR prized school supplies. So here’s the deal: If you want your child to use a certain pack of crayons, leave those in his/her backpack or use them at home. Write your child’s name on the themed folder if its special to them. But beyond that – just know, the Elmer’s glue with your cuties name on it is definitely going into a ‘glue’ labeled bin with the other 40 glues.
- Teamwork will in fact make the DREAM WORK! You, your child, and your child’s teacher are all part of spectacular team that is responsible for child’s school success. If you need help or have concerns – talk to YOUR child’s teacher. Occasionally, friends will ask me for advice and the first thing I ALWAYS say is, “did you talk to the teacher?”. Even if you don’t always agree, remember, you’re still on the same team and you share the same goals. And lastly, my BEST tidbit of advice, it’s never too early for your child to take responsibility for his/her educational success. Being accountable for turning in homework assignments, completing classwork, and asking for help are all skills that will ensure long term success in school.