The teacher who partners with an understanding and conscientious parent knows that little things mean a lot. Following are a few easy-to-implement practices that will increase the odds of your child having an academically, emotionally and socially successful school year:
- Enforce regular attendance. Kids miss out on valuable learning when they are not in school. They can complete missed assignments when they return to school, but they can never recapture the special insights that accompany in-session lessons. When children are not in school they miss the teacher’s extra little tidbits that help make a topic come alive, and they lose the opportunity to be a part of thought-provoking discussions and problem solving solutions. Teachers cannot teach students who do not attend school.
- Get your child to school on time! It’s best if kids can be at school at least 10 minutes before the last morning bell rings. This gives the child a few minutes to chat with the teacher, socialize with friends, and take care of other unfinished business such as sharpening pencils, using the restroom, etc. Plus, it is disruptive to teachers and other students when a child arrives late to class.
- Resist the temptation to take your child out of school for nonessential appointments during the day or before regular dismissal time. School is the child’s job. Recess is his or her coffee break. Think of full-day attendance—five days a week—as training for the real world and the real job.
- Learn about your child’s day. Unless you like to hear “nothing,” refrain from asking your child what he or she learned in school that day. You can learn a lot about your child’s academic skills by simply going through his or her backpack each night. Ask your child to tell you about each paper and be watchful for any skills or concepts that he or she might be struggling with. If you note a troublesome area, work on it with your child for just a few minutes each night until the fuzziness clears. And finally, always find something positive to say about your child’s work.
- Don’t let worries or frustrations fester. If you or your child has a concern that lasts more than a week, check it out with the appropriate school employee—teacher, bus driver, lunchroom monitor, etc. A problem shared becomes half a problem!
- Set a reasonable bedtime and enforce it. Tired kids cannot think clearly and kids who cannot think do not learn. This is especially important for younger children. Older kids usually do fine with a 9 or 9:30 bedtime, but anything later than that should be strongly discouraged.
- Make your child eat something before going to school, but don’t get hung up on the “healthy food” issue. Of course, a healthful breakfast is best, but some kids simply refuse this type of fare. If that’s the case at your house, don’t sweat it too much. Something in your child’s tummy is better than nothing!
- Do all that you can to develop a cooperative, friendly relationship with your child’s teachers and other school personnel. In a perfect world, every parent would like his child’s teacher and every school would be absolutely hunky-dory. But, we don’t live in a perfect world. If you are less than enthusiastic about this year’s teachers, please bite your tongue and camouflage your feelings as much as possible. If your child hears you badmouth or belittle his teacher, he’ll do the same—although he’ll probably do it behind the teacher’s back. If a student doesn’t respect his teacher, there is no rapport. And then there is little or no rapport between the teacher and the student, there is little or no learning for the student. That’s a high price to pay.