This is part 2 of a 2 part series. The first part is The first week of school for Teachers.
As I discussed yesterday, the first week of school is absolutely chaotic for teachers. However, an effective teacher will make everything seem seem serene and well put together. The teacher gives an air of calm and purpose, making sure the children feel secure and ready to learn. The students, though, rarely sense the whirlwind of the week that follows, and continue being kids—much to the frustration of their teacher, who has enough to deal with as it is.
Yes, both teachers and students get anxious about the beginning of school. Parents, though, can be a big help in easing a child’s transition from summer vacation mode to school mode. Here are some tips that can make the student’s—and teacher’s—life a little easier:
1. Make sure your child is prepared for a chaotic and unpredictable week – That first week will involve lots of changes. If a child understands that this chaos is temporary and will then settle into a routine, it’ll help him/her adjust to the change. It will also allow the teacher to complete what is necessary to get on with the business of teaching your child.
2. Explain the importance of routines and procedures ahead of time – learning doesn’t happen until the class gets into a predictable rhythm: a routine involving rules and procedures that help the class run smoothly. Explain to your child the importance of those routines and that the teacher is doing them so that he/she can help you learn—even if the routines seem alien or unnecessary to you. There’s a method to our madness, believe me. If you don’t get it, just ask (see number 6).
3. When we send home our rules/materials/goals and expectations letter, take it seriously – it should go without saying, but too many parents take a look at the letter, run to the store to buy the necessary materials, sign what needs to be signed, and throw the rest away. Those letters we send home explain, in a nutshell, what is expected in the classroom. It’s vital FROM DAY ONE that the parent and the teacher are on the same page.
4. Bathroom your child before he/she leaves for school – you may not realize this, but most of the really effective learning happens in the morning, when we’re most alert. Many schools have banned bathroom use before a certain time. Making sure the student leaves the house fully evacuated helps in avoiding breaks in concentration. (Of course, if the kid has a medical problem, let us know.) I turn into a real vindictive monster when it comes to kids that abuse bathroom privileges…please avoid that.
5. Make sure your child takes homework seriously – homework will be assigned from the very first day, thanks to the wonderful universe created by school administrators and No Child Left Behind. Make sure your child gets into good homework habits from the beginning, along with all new routines he/she will learn that first week.
6. If you have a question or concern, ask sooner rather than later – don’t wait until a call comes home that Johnny isn’t doing his classwork to ask about classroom procedures. Believe me, we’re more than happy to discuss how we operate with parents. If something doesn’t make sense to you, it probably doesn’t make sense to us, either. We’re BOTH accountable for the well-being and success of this child, no matter what the NCLB crowd thinks.
The number one thought that we teachers want to leave with you is: be patient. Thanks to our current educational climate, most administrators are trained to see teachers as uneducated simians with number two pencils. Of course, that is hardly the case, but the first week of school creates such a myriad of concerns that we may seem like savage apes at times. At least for those first few weeks, give teachers the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the right thing. If you have concerns, it’s better to air them out with the teacher before escalating with administrators. After all, the students see their teacher more than anyone else that day, and they need to feel as comfortable as possible.
Teachers get frustrated and burnt out just like kids. If parents can work with us, then we can at least share the frustration, along with the thrills, of helping children learn. Now excuse me while I get back to cleaning my classroom…
Luciano D’Orazio, AKA “Mr. D”, is the chief author/founder of Mr. D’s Neighborhood, a history education blog containing news, opinion pieces and resources pertaining to history and history education for grades K-12. He is the social studies coordinator for a K-5 elementary school in the South Bronx, New York, and is a Teacher-Historian with the Teaching American History federal grant program.
- The First Week of School for Teachers
- Brilliant Back to School Tips for Parents
- Connecting the home and school for our kids’ success
- Favorite Back to School Tips
- The First Week of School: A Teacher’s Perspective