I think I'm more nervous than they are....
So, your kids are ready to begin a new school year in a new school where you think they will be devoured into a sea of nameless, faceless children. Who will take the time to know them the way their former teachers did? Will there be someone there they can trust? What will happen if they forget to write things down and come home confused? Will they be bullied? Will their teachers help them when they need it?
Most of what you're wondering right now parents have been wondering since the dawn of time.
I am a twenty year veteran of the teaching profession, a middle school teacher and a MOTHER of two teenagers who have been through the transitions from elementary to middle school and middle to high school. I also coach parents in my own middle school through the first few months as their children transition. Sometimes, they attest to being more nervous than their children appear to be. I am often asked what my own strategies are for making sure my kids have good experiences in school. Here's are a few simple things I do to assure (them) and myself that this change is going to bring new opportunities and it will be more than okay.
1) I find out who my children's teachers are going to be and in the first few days of school, just introduce myself to them (as the mother, not the teacher). In other words, I build the partnership through my willingness to reach toward them. This is my version of parental involvement. I tell the teachers things they will need or want to know about my child that will be helpful in personally connecting with them and teaching them. There are also some things I KNOW my child has trouble with and I share with the teachers what I'm doing to help support them. I let them know what my expectations are for my child in terms of homework, organization, etc. I tell them the best way to contact me in the event that they need or want and I thank them for all they've done to prepare for the new school year. Remember, this is a partnership you are creating with a common goal of your child's productive learning experience, emotional well-being and physical well-being in mind, so don't be shy. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen situations between teachers and parents twist into knots over misunderstandings that have occured because communication from both sides was not established positively and early.
2) I let my own children know how I will hold them accountable. This includes maintaining and writing in their planners (which are now digital). KIDS DON'T AUTOMATICALLY KNOW HOW TO PLAN SHORT AND LONG TERM. It has to be explicitly taught and modeled by the adults in their lives.
I also expect my own kids to communicate with their teachers all by themselves. Even when they were both in middle school I told them that their teachers would respect them for self-advocating and being honest about what helps them to learn. I tell them that since I am not in school and they are - it will be their responsibility to ask for and record clarifying information BEFORE THEY LEAVE THE CLASSROOM. Sometimes, they forget, upon which time I make sure they know how to go onto their teachers webpages and email. Honestly, I have told them from as young as grade 3, that the teacher would much rather get an email from them than from me.
3) Talk with your child every single day about specifics at the dinner table. The question, "How was your day?" isn't enough. Dinner time conversation can include talk about friends, art projects their making, funny things that happened that day, not-so-funny things that happened that day. Cornell University recently published literature on this very issue and CNN sited research from Brigham Young University and other reputable, trustworthy sources that there are countless social, physical, academic and economic benefits to eating dinner together. During adolescents, kids' beliefs and values are being challenged and reformed daily - and you want to be their greatest influence. Every time you converse with them, you give them the opportunity to examine and explore those values and model your own. Believe it or not, by turning off the electronics and dining together, you will actually get to know your kids really, really well. : ) You don't have to be a chef, you just have to be there.
Rest well. If you take control and put these three structures in place during this school year, your children and teachers will take notice of your deliberate, supportive parenting.
Always glad we talked,
More to come on this issue throughout the year.