Yes, it’s here already! The summer is over and the kids are back in school. You are experiencing the first rush of not having to plan summer activities for your children. They are having a blessed honeymoon period with their new teacher, classroom and/or school. Everything seems to be going smoothly – so far, so good.
But how long can you expect this grace to last? There’s no telling…but there are things we can do to help the school year keep going as smoothly as it is right now. (If your school year is already off to a rocky start, don’t worry. You and your child’s team can turn it around!)
First, and most important, is communication between home and school. Often communication coming from school can seem scarce, sketchy, or skewed toward the negative. We understand how busy teachers are with all of their students, not just ours, so we usually don’t expect to hear daily about everything our child did, said, or ate for lunch. But, depending on the situation, (such as nonverbal children who can’t tell us about their day) it may be important to set up a regular system of back-and-forth communication.
This could be a notebook or composition book sent home with notes from the teacher, and sent back with notes from the parent. Don’t expect a lot of detail – remember we want the teacher to spend most of the day with students, not writing letters – but a brief note can mean a lot. It could be a daily form with boxes to check about what kind of day they had. or blanks to fill in about what they seemed to enjoy working or playing with at school. If there are concerns about a child who is an extremely picky eater, it can help to have a note about what the child ate for lunch. If there are concerns about toileting or significant constipation or other health or medical concerns, they should be documented in the book or form.
What do we hope to hear from our child’s teacher? Something good. Something positive. Something that demonstrates that the teacher recognizes and appreciates the lovable, curious, and infinitely interesting child we see at home. When there is a negative note, maybe a tantrum, meltdown, or other problem behavior, we hope that it is sandwiched between two compliments and followed by a plan to address the behavior. No one wants to read a litany of every naughty thing our child did all day at school with no idea about how to make it better. It just feels like the teacher thinks it’s our fault, and that is rarely the case.
What does the teacher want to hear from us, when we send a note back to school? If our child had a stressful weekend or morning, let the teacher know, even if it seems trivial, like running out of their favorite breakfast cereal. Teachers can give a student a break and treat them with extra kindness and understanding when they know it is needed. It is important to let the teacher know if your child has been sick, or had a change in medication, or a change in the family (grandparents visiting or moving in, older siblings moving out on their own, the death of a pet, etc.) Any of these things could trigger a change in behavior, and if the teacher knows what’s going on at home, it will be easier to address it appropriately at school.
If we need to get in touch with our child’s teacher, it’s a good idea to call and leave a message at the office asking for a return call. We wouldn’t want the teacher pulled away from working with our child to answer a phone call from another parent, so we respect classroom hours and let the teacher pick the time when it’s most convenient to talk on the phone.
Finally, it’s important for us to let our child’s teacher know how grateful we are for the awesome job they are doing. Don’t let teaching be the thankless job that some believe it to be. Express your gratitude. When a teacher does something especially helpful, going above and beyond, be sure to also let their principal or supervisor know. Praise and kind words go much farther than whining and complaining.
During these first few weeks of school, to set the stage for a good school relationship all year round, focus on positive home-school communication as a priority. Let me know in the comments section if you have any insights or stories about what works in communicating with your child’s school. I love to hear from you!