How do I get my child off to a good start in school? | Column
By JOY BROOKE
Kirkland Reporter Contributor
September 17, 2012 · Updated 8:25 AM
Dear Mrs. Brooke,
How do I get my child off to a good start in school?
Dear Concerned Parent,
• Hopefully you got all doctor and dentist appointments out of the way if possible. It is of course understandable when an emergency takes place, but routine exams should be scheduled out of the school day. We know when kids are absent they miss things and many times the class experience is hard to make up no matter how hard teachers try.
• Thoroughly read all information that comes home and visit the school website. Store all numbers and emails in your contacts, now. As more information trickles home in backpacks, try to read and fill out forms right away. You may feel overloaded and miss out on valuable information if you wait.
• Coordinate the school calendar with your own, so you are aware of important dates such as early release days, holidays, Winter and Spring Break, Conference days, etc. If you plan to take a vacation during the school year, let the teacher know once school gets going, and always follow up two to three weeks prior and even a few days before, as a reminder.
• If you are interested in volunteering at your child’s school or in your child’s classroom, find out the appropriate protocol. In every school district there is usually a system in place where background checks are a part of this volunteer process and these may take time to process. Getting this done ahead of time is a good idea. Most teachers invite volunteers into the classroom at the end of September, or in early October. Although some parents may think this is a long wait, teachers need time to bond with the students, assess their academic needs and figure out where classroom volunteers are most needed. Other volunteer opportunities are usually available right away through the school Parent and Teacher Association (PTA) at each school. Joining this organization and getting involved allows you to be part of other aspects of the school including family nights, enrichment programs, art and science programs, etc. Find out more information at your individual school’s PTA website.
• If you bought school supplies and had them ready to go the first day of school, good for you! This is super helpful to teachers so they can have an organized and fully stocked classroom from the beginning. Sometimes teachers need to ask for more items later on, so it is always nice for parents to understand this and also inquire about, or donate, other items the teacher might need.
• Re-establish routines! If your family was like mine, and summer allowed you some days at the beach, pool, camps, and trips, it is time to get back to a routine. Leave plenty of time before school for children to get dressed, brush their teeth, and eat a healthy breakfast, so your morning isn’t rushed before each school day, or worse, your child is late to school. Being late to school is no fun for the child, the teacher, and the students whose learning is interrupted when other students enter the class after the bell has rung.
• Create new boundaries around technology, especially in the morning hours before school. Many studies show that children who watch TV before school often have a harder time focusing on schoolwork. Quiet activities such as playing cards, reading, building legos, or solving puzzles/word searches, will allow an easier transition in the morning. After school, make homework a priority over screen time too.
• Attend events at your child’s school if your child is feeling anxious (or even if you are) in those first weeks. Usually teachers are present, but even if they aren’t, most of the time the school is open and you can walk around the building and, at least, let your child “show you around” the school. This also allows them to picture the “new” environment in their mind, which can alleviate stress for both you and your child. Certainly, if you are feeling anxious, most likely your child will feel anxious as well.
• Designate a study spot at home. This is super important! During many goal setting conferences I’ve had over the years, (yes, even in Kindergarten) the parents, the child, and I have discussed the need for the student to have a quiet place away from distractions where they are able to do their schoolwork. The kitchen table, although a place once thought of as great for doing homework, isn’t always the best environment anymore. Often a desk in a child’s room or a nook in an upstairs bonus area allows students to focus on the task at hand instead of on dinner cooking, TV, or people bustle in and out the front door.
• Designate a spot to keep your child’s backpack. This seems like such a simple request, but you don’t know how many children and parents have told me they can’t find something or need another copy because things get lost or they can’t find their backpack. Students who seem the most successful are those that leave their backpack in the same spot every day when they come home. This alleviates a lot of stress in the morning too, eliminating the need to find the “lost” backpack.
• Yes, it is okay to encourage your child to bring the teacher a “picture,” apple, or a book for the classroom library to start the year off right. By the time students enter the classroom many teachers have already been in their classroom for weeks preparing. They deserve a little appreciation and it doesn’t have to wait until “Teacher Appreciation Week” in May. Even a quick email or thank you note can mean more than you know to a teacher who, yes, also may feel anxious about a new school year with new faces.
• During the first weeks of school it is especially important if you can to keep your schedule open as much as possible. Starting school can be very stressful even for the kids who are so excited to get back. Be there, be present, and be ready to listen (not necessarily to be asking too many questions). Preparing your child at home for success at school is key to your child receiving an excellent education. As your child’s most important teacher, thank you for wanting your child to have a great school experience from the beginning. With a concerned parent like you supporting your learner each day, I am sure your child will find success from the beginning and continue to achieve all school year long.
Happy Back to School!