Kids may cheer the beginning of summer, but I know a few parents who cheer the first day of school. There’s so much to prepare for and anticipate. By the time school starts, almost everyone is a little nervous (even teachers!) and anxious about the transition to the daily routine. As a teacher, I’ve seen more than a few school-year beginnings, and I’d like to share a few back-to-school tipsfor parents to have the best year ever!
1. Start setting your alarm
Sure, you want to live up your last few days of summer — but that first wake-up call is going to be brutal. Start setting alarms and having your kids get used to the new wake-up time (and bedtime) for the school year. It may not be enough to wake up early. Set your expectations for chores and getting ready in the morning so your kids get into the groove.
2. Update your information at school
Most schools send students home with paperwork to update their parents’ contact information every year, but the school may still have outdated info. Kids — especially high schoolers — can forget about or misplace these forms, though, and the school may have trouble getting a hold of you. This goes for your emergency contacts too. It’s best to go into the school and personally update your information if anything has changed.
3. Take note of teacher contact information
When your students bring home sheets detailing information about their classes, probably the most important piece is teacher contact information. Take note of how your child’s teacher prefers to communicate (hours, method, etc.) and send a note back to the teacher introducing yourself and offering your information. I always appreciate when parents let me know what they would like to hear about, too, such as progress in math or volunteer opportunities.
4. Have a growth mindset
As a parent, you have great knowledge of your child’s strengths and challenges, so share that information with their teachers. . Often, I hear parents say, “Johnny isn’t good at math.” Chances are, Johnny thinks this too. Kids are in school for a reason, and struggling with learning is part of the path of progress. Many of my students think if something is a challenge for them, it must be too hard or they must not be good at it. Challenge just means they’re still working on it. It’s not enough to focus only on positives or even to cheerlead — “You can do it!” is meaningless without action. Focus on what can be done, establish goals (with clear steps in the process!) and help your students work on their weaknesses. This is a great book with strategies for parents to encourage growth mindsets.
5. Be your child’s academic coach
Talk to your child about what he or she is struggling with and be a coach. If it’s organizing and getting homework done, help establish a process for calendaring and making time. You may have to hand hold more in the beginning until a routine is established. Help your kids learn about asking questions and when to approach the teacher for extra help too. There’s a lot of explicit teaching that has to happen for people to become problem solvers. We don’t all pick it up naturally.
It’s no wonder that being a parent is one of the most rewarding and difficult jobs in the world. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into having a successful school year, and parents who show how much they care by supporting their students is what makes the biggest difference.
Mariko is a high school English teacher who has three children, illegible handwriting and an obsession with mail-order artisan ice cream. She lives in Hawaii, but she makes a point to eat her way through big cities as often as she can.