As a parent of an elementary student, I know that uneasy feeling of preparing to send your child into the unknowns of a new school year. A cacophony of what ifs fills my mind:
What if the teacher doesn’t challenge him enough?
What if the teacher challenges him too much?
What if he forgot everything over the summer?
What if he doesn’t want to go to school?
What if he doesn’t make new friends?
What if he learns bad habits?
I am not an elementary teacher, but I am a teacher, so on the first day of school my mind doesn’t usually find any time in my busy schedule to blast the what ifs in regards to my own learner. As an educator, I must remind myself that our children’s teachers are doing everything they can to make sure our kids transition into the new year swimmingly.
Rest easy, parents. I got in touch with some of the best educators in our area. Here is what they want us to know. (Much of this can be applied to our secondary schoolers as well, but are beneficial to know in the early years.)
May this honest advice from elementary teachers reassure you and remind you that we are all in this together.
“It’s better to wait to send your child to kindergarten than ‘try’ it and have your child struggle all year long. We want school to be a place where they can be successful, but that’s hard when they aren’t ready for that much structure. There is NO SHAME in waiting another year.” More than likely they will be more successful and happy. If you are unsure, ask your school district if they offer a test. Your child’s results can assist you in making the best decision.
2. Your Kids are OUR “Kids”
“We worry about your kids just like we do our own children. We think about them when we are at school and at home.” I will never forget what a father said to me at parent-teacher conferences after asking how his son was “really doing” in class. He wanted to know that his son who happened to be on the Autism spectrum was fitting in. “Because…that’s my boy,” he told me with tears in his eyes. Teachers know that every student is someone’s baby. We are looking out for them as if they were our own.
“Your child may behave differently when you’re not around. So don’t be surprised when you hear about something they did that they would ‘never do at home.’ Good or bad.”
Throughout my elementary years, my mom always heard my teachers say, “She is doing great, but she needs to speak up more.” During my first middle school parent-teacher conference, she heard my teacher say, “She is doing great, but she needs to socialize less.” My mom did not respond with, “Oh, not my daughter.”
4. What Did You Learn Today?
“Ask your kids what they learned in school- and don’t accept ‘nothing’ for an answer. When kids become the teachers of information, they have really learned it.”
“School doesn’t end at 2:45. Engage and encourage learning at home.” No homework tonight? Practice makes perfect. Again, ask them to show you/tell you what they are working on in school. Ask questions and allow them to be the teacher, even if you know the answers.
5. No Judgement
“I want parents to know I won’t judge them if their kid comes to school in mismatched socks, teeth not brushed, hair askew. Life is hectic, and some mornings, things get out of hand.” We would rather your child come to school less than polished than miss out on learning time.
6. No Excuses
“Don’t make excuses for your child’s behavior. They are young and make mistakes. We can help work together as a team to help them.”
7. Words of Thanks
“A simple ‘thank you’ can make my whole day! Sadly, we don’t hear it all that often.” This does not have to be in the form of a perfectly crafted Pinterest project for our desk. The most meaningful gift a student or parent can give a teacher is sincere words of thanks via a phone call, email, or hand-written note. After a tough day in the classroom, teachers return to those words as a reminder of why they are in education in the first place.
8. We Are a Team
“Sometimes when we call home, and it’s for a tough conversation, we want you to do your best to help us because at this point we’ve tried everything we can. We value your opinion because we know you know your child best. We are sorry if we haven’t made that positive contact with you enough, but teaching can be demanding of our time. It’s not about taking sides, but about how we can all work together (the student included) to make school the most positive experience it can be.”
“We are all on the same side. We may come from different directions or use different approaches to get there, but ultimately we both want what is best for the child.”
William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” No matter how much knowledge is given to our children, the greatest gift we can give them is a passion towards learning. Turn off your worries and show your child how excited you are about their education.
Our job as parents is just as important as that of the classroom teacher. We must continue to fuel that spark in our kids as they head off with oversized backpacks and eager grins.
We asked this same question to a group of secondary teachers. If you’ve got older kids, find out what high school teachers really want parents to know!