Ready to have a great school year?
We all want our kids to do well in school. We want them to learn, develop confidence, feel safe, and grow into the wonderful people we know they’re capable of becoming. These tips from classroom teachers will help you navigate some common issues so that you and your child can have a great school year.
But be prepared…there’s a little tough love included in these tips as well.
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How to have a great school year
Tip #1: Get to know your child’s teacher
No, I don’t mean that you become BFF’s with her, but do go to open house or back to school night. Introduce yourself, leave your phone number and email address. Let her know that you’re interested in your child’s education and that you want to be her ally.
The sooner you do this in the school year, the better.
A teacher who feels like there is a receptive and supportive parent at home is more likely to take the time to keep you abreast of any developments that will affect your child’s performance and achievement…and that will give you peace of mind in addition to helping you have a great school year.
Tip #2: Be involved at school, but don’t hover
You know the type – the “helicopter” parent.
These parents are overly involved in everything that goes on in their child’s life, and school is no exception.
On the other hand, some parents become so uninvolved that teachers begin to wonder if the child actually HAS any parents. You don’t want to be at either end of the continuum. It’s sometimes a difficult balancing act, but your child is worth it.
Tip #3: Don’t rescue your child from every failure
A sad fact of life is that all of us will experience failure at some point.
Oh, I don’t mean the life-crushing, soul-shattering kind that destroys lives, but there are small failures that your child will – and should – experience.
This is how a child learns to cope with life, deal with and recover from failure, and develop as a person. This is how resilience is born – and it can’t develop if you’re always there with a safety net to prevent your child from experiencing any failure. This doesn’t mean that I’m advocating letting your child completely flounder and drown – quite the opposite.
Experiencing a few age-appropriate failures doesn’t keep your child from having a great school year. As parents, our goal is to figure out the the proper amount of support to lend while also letting our child figure things out on their own.
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Tip #4: Encourage your child’s independence
It’s SOOOO hard to do this, I know. But a key milestone in having a successful school year is that your child becomes more independent each passing year. It’s how our children learn to stand on her own two feet.
There’s nothing magical about 18 candles on a cake. Your child won’t develop the maturity she needs unless you let her take appropriate steps to get there.
Tip #5: Don’t automatically blame the school or the teacher for your child’s problems
Schools and teachers have become easy scapegoats for a lot of problems that kids experience today.
I remember when I was a young teacher and a parent accused me of ruining her child’s life. Now you need to be aware that I had this student for 45 minutes every day – that’s it. The mom who was accusing me, on the other hand, had divorced the child’s father and quickly gone on to marry and divorce two other men before marrying for a fourth time. I strongly suspect – as I did then – that the child’s behavior problems were most likely caused by issues going on at home. But I was an easy target for a mother who wasn’t examining what else could be at the root of the child’s distress.
Now, in the interest of fairness…sometimes things at school ARE the cause of a problem.
And when they are, it’s our job as parents to figure out what’s going on so that a solution implemented.
My point is this…growing up is tough (for both kids and parents!). Before jumping to any conclusions, examine all factors. Take a look at what’s going on at home, what might be going on with friends and peers, and what’s going on in the classroom.
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Tip #6: Make your child do their homework or other projects
Yes, I know – it’s hard, he doesn’t like homework, it’s a battle to get him to do it. I’ve heard every excuse under the sun.
But the simple truth is that if you don’t make your child do his homework you are undermining the teacher’s attempt to educate him. If you honestly have an issue with the amount or difficulty of the assignments, schedule a conference and find out what’s going on.
Some questions to ask:
- Is your child behind?
- Is this material that he’s not paying attention to in class?
In other words, before you try to give your child a pass, talk to the teacher first. Then work together to come up with a solution. Having a great school year doesn’t mean there are not any problems at all – it simply means that it’s a school year in which everyone worked together to help the child learn and grow.
Tip #7: Make sure your child has the necessary school supplies and a place to study at home
This really ought to go without saying, but you’d be surprised how many students come to school with no supplies whatsoever.
I know that money can be tight. But your child needs supplies and the teacher can’t supply them all. And you’re the child’s parent – it’s up to you to figure out how to get them. There may be places where you can get supplies cheaply or organizations that will help provide them.
Contact the counselor at your child’s school to get suggestions – don’t just ignore it and assume someone else will take care of it.
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Tip #8: Don’t assume that your child is always right or telling you everything
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, “My child wouldn’t lie,” I’d be a rich woman today.
The thing is this – all kids will try to get out of trouble or to present themselves in the best light. It’s natural and it’s not an indictment of your parenting skills or the gene pool.
I’ll say it again – no child is perfect. And teachers know that and don’t hold it against you. But before you go storming up to school to defend your child, consider that there are at least two sides to every story.
Actually, my experience with school discipline has convinced me that there are at least three sides:
your side, my side, and the truth
Let’s aim to get the truth before we get defensive.
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Tip #9: Along those same lines, please don’t jump to conclusions without getting all the facts
Often times things happen at school and your child is not privy to all the details.
For example, another child may have done something to him. Your child comes home and tells you “Johnny hit me and the teacher didn’t do anything.”
Before you assume that nothing happened, ask. School disciplinary issues are confidential. This means that the teacher can’t tell your child – or you, for that matter – exactly what happened to the other child. They can, however, assure you that SOMETHING was done to address the issue.
But please, ask.
I have personally had times when I’ve had to tell a parent “I can’t tell you precisely what the discipline was, but I can assure you that we’ve taken this seriously and I’ve addressed it.” Sometimes that’s all the school can tell you.
However, as with everything, if things repeatedly happen, be sure to ask questions. I’d like to say that everything is always fair and that things never get swept under the rug, but that wouldn’t be true. When in doubt, investigate and ask questions.
Tip #10: Do not be a screamer at school
I have been called more ugly names and screamed at more times than I can count.
Everyone gets angry and it’s frequently justified. But please try to keep your cool enough to remain in control and act like an adult. Screaming accomplishes nothing.
In fact, it only alienates the person you’re screaming at. My grandmother used to say, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I know when you’re angry it’s hard to be calm. But remaining civil goes a long way to gaining the cooperation you need and want to help get your issue addressed and your problem solved…which helps everyone have a better school year.
It is possible to have a great school year!
Your child’s education is important to you. It’s also important to your child’s teacher. Working with the school has benefits for your child that last for years. If there’s a situation that you simply cannot work out with the teacher, contact the school counselor or one of the administrators – they’re there to help you and your child have a great school year.