Start the School Year off Right: The ABC’s of Communicating with Your Child’s Teachers
At the beginning of each school year, I am often reminded of the saying, “It takes a village.” I have come to learn that my children’s successes are not a direct result of the lessons taught to them by my husband and me, but rather from the love and guidance given to them by many of the adults in their world, including their teachers. There is something to be said about children learning that other people can be trusted and responsive to their needs. In fact, early on, relationships between children and loving adults in their lives can have a strong influence on their emerging social-emotional development and self-confidence, among other readiness skills.
So whether you are a parent who is rejoicing in the fact that summer is over and your child is starting a new school year, or whether you will be shedding tears at the door as you say “see you later,” below are some tips to help foster your relationship with your child’s teachers—in an effort to expand your village and promote ongoing collaboration and communication.
Always set expectations ahead of time: From the beginning, it is ideal to let your child’s teachers know what your expectations are for the school year. What are your goals for your child? What are your hopes and dreams for them? Being up front helps set the stage for a wonderful partnership, and hopefully will help you avoid any major disappointments along the way.
Be sure to inquire about communication preferences: Drop off and pick up times can be busy for teachers, as they are preoccupied with greeting children and engaging those who have already arrived. Not to mention, big ears are listening, and having conversations in front of your child is less than ideal. Ask your child’s teacher what the best way is to reach them and share your communication preferences as well. If finding a time to connect is particularly challenging, you can always suggest a communication notebook that goes back and forth in your child’s bag.
Convey what you know about your child: You are the expert on your child and you are their very first teacher. Set them up for success by being proactive and sharing with your child’s teachers what you know about them. What are their likes and strengths? What are any challenges you anticipate? Is there specific language or strategies that your child responds best to? Knowing these things will help your child’s teachers connect with them and build a positive relationship for the school year ahead.
Don’t wait to share information: Children thrive on routine and predictability. Inform your child’s teachers of any changes that may affect them as soon as possible. Do you have visitors in town? Did your child get a poor night’s sleep? Is one parent traveling more frequently than usual? Sometimes a little TLC can go a long way, and if your child’s teachers are aware that they have been impacted by changes at home, they can be more attuned to their needs in the classroom.
Exude confidence: Children learn best when they feel safe. If there is a situation that has occurred at school that has upset you, don’t talk about it in front of your child. Children are in tune with their parents and will pick up on your anxiety or tension. Remember, your attitude counts! It helps when parents can reassure their child they are in a safe and fun place. Always support and validate your child’s feelings, but discuss any concerns with your friends, partner, or child’s teachers when they are not around.
Find time to visit: Stay connected to your child’s classroom and show them that you value the home-school connection. Make sure to come during visitation hours to meet your child’s teachers, classmates, and see their new room. Throughout the year as opportunities are offered, consider signing up as a mystery reader or Shabbat helper, or volunteering to organize school events with other parents. Attend parent-teacher conferences to learn more about your child’s daily experiences, as well as read and review Kaymbu messages to learn about the activities they participated in for the week.
While there are many feelings parents experience at the beginning of a new school year, it can be reassuring to know that teachers genuinely want each child to have a successful experience as well. When surveyed, teachers overwhelmingly share that they appreciate and welcome open communication with the parents in their classrooms. Time and again, I have witnessed children flourish when a collaborative partnership is formed between the adults in their world. Take pride in knowing there is a village behind you, and you are not in this alone.
Wishing you all an incredible school year ahead!
By Rachel Schwartz, LCSW, Director of Social Services for JCC Chicago