Important things to know before the school year starts

When our children go back to school, there is sweetness and sorrow. While there may be no more scrambling to make childcare arrangements, there are also no more lazy days. Many parents also get anxious about their kids getting the perfect teacher and being placed in the perfect class so they can have a perfect year.

I understand. I am a parent who is now an attorney, but used to be a teacher. Even I made the mistake of worrying about a perfect start to a perfect school year: If only my son can get Mrs. So-and-So for kindergarten, he is going to be perfect. The whole year will be perfect. She does cartwheels and backflips for the kids, and when she walks into her classroom every morning, glitter falls from the ceiling.

My son didn’t get Mrs. So-and-So. He was placed with a very seasoned and sage teacher who was about as excitable as moss. But she was nice and predictable, balanced and certain. 

Exactly what he needed. He had a great year, even without the glitter.  

Things to keep in mind

If you want to alleviate your child’s back-to-school worries, start with yourself. 

Let preconceptions go, and carve out some meaningful and realistic expectations for a happy and successful school experience. When you do, you will find that what you want for your children is the same thing that teachers want for their students. 

When I surveyed area teachers about what they want parents to know, their top answer was generally this: “I want parents to know that I will love their kids as if they were my own and that I will take good care of them throughout the year and keep them safe.” 

Isn’t that what parents want most too?

Teachers also want parents to know that communication is key. If you have questions, ask before jumping to conclusions. If you promise not to believe everything your child tells you about what goes on at school, teachers promise not to believe everything your child tells them about what goes on at home.

Read the newsletters and classroom updates. Know that they will respond to your emails when they come up for air between teaching, testing and other classroom management tasks. Tell the teacher what you expect, and have your child tell the teacher what he expects, too. Are your expectations different? Probably, and that can be extremely informative.    

Understand that grades aren’t everything. While teachers’ jobs may depend on them, every teacher queried said the functional skills, social growth and emotional development of each student in her classroom are far more important to them than the academic tasks teachers are charged to carry out. 

Consequently, teachers ask parents to keep in mind that, even the kids in the Honors classes are still just children, and while college may be the goal for some, they are not there yet, and some students may not be destined for college at all. 

Know this is not a shortcoming or a character flaw; choosing a career path that doesn’t require a college degree can show maturity and resoluteness, and can help your child become independent much sooner than students who still rely on their parents to provide for college. 

Get over hoping for a perfect year.

Remember that this is a new year, a different one. Children are usually in a different classroom with different peers and a different teacher, so it’s bound to be a different experience. Let it be different. 

Relax and let things get going. Be supportive, encouraging and optimistic, and let your child see that. His whole outlook on things, even if he doesn’t come home covered in glitter every day, will depend on YOU.

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