I almost feel unqualified to write this because I am not a teacher. I wanted to be a teacher but for various reasons, I never went to school for it and I regret it every year. Second best to teaching has been being involved at school in various ways, which I know isn’t everyone’s gig, but I love keeping myself involved. What I’ve learned in the nine years I’ve had children in school so far is that a good relationship with classroom teachers and the school goes a long way.
Every school year I make sure I go to the open house, enrollment night, smart start, whatever day the school has to welcome students. It’s usually a meet and greet, drop your supplies off, take your school photo, fill out forms kind of event and in past years I’ve spent up to an hour there. It isn’t a huge time commitment but it’s helpful for teachers and staff to put a face to your name and your child’s but also, you get a feel for what the classroom is like. You can ask questions and talk about any specific needs your child might have. I know people see this and think they’ll just skip it, or the parents who have had kids at this school for years figure they know it all so don’t need to go, to them I say: spend the hour, stay involved.
Everyone loves gifts
I’m also that mom who has a “back to school” gift. It’s completely optional but if you’re the over-achieving mom it’s always a fun thing. I’ve always done a very small bag/basket/container and made a “survival kit” for the first day. I’ve included Advil/Tylenol, a mini stress ball, fun pens, candy, small snack, and note letting them know you are open to communication and willing to help during the school year.
OR… skip the gift, BUT!
Send them an email letting them know you are open to communication and you want to know if there is something you can do at home to support your children’s education.
I have to tell you I was PTO President for five years so I will forever and always advocate for parents and guardians getting involved. I work, you work, we all work. Sometimes at the end of the day the last thing you want is to huff it to a PTO or PTA meeting, I get it. What you don’t know is that the hub of information for the entire school happens at these and you will know about events and field trips in advance. Maybe meetings aren’t your thing, but you could volunteer to read to the class, help with classroom activities, chaperone a field trip, come to career day, or attend social events that parents and guardians are invited to. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but I promise you, of all the things in my kids’ elementary school years, their top memories are the times I came to school to help out.
Read what comes home
Whether it’s a paper shoved into a backpack or an emailed newsletter, read it. It takes less than 5 minutes and will save you a headache and last minute scrambling later. You are never too busy to read and pay attention to what is happening with your child’s education.
I know in elementary school a lot of the conflict is friend drama because, while they are learning information all day, they are also learning how to be among other people and forge relationships, and work with people they don’t necessarily like, and that is a GOOD thing! Sometimes though you’ll hear a story and immediately want to protect your child but it’s important to ask the teacher for the whole story and be open to knowing the story you got maybe isn’t the whole truth.
You catch more flies with honey
I have never met a parent who has gotten through 12th grade with their child without a problem. Not one. Whether it’s a disagreement with a teacher or classmate, you will encounter them and how you handle it is very important. People are more inclined to help you if you are nice. If you come in blaming every staff member you see and yelling? You’ve already set the tone for anything after that. If you come in willing to listen and problem solve? You have a better chance at having a good resolution, even more so when you’ve got a good relationship with the teacher.
Be appreciative and show it
I’m not saying you have to lavish them with gifts, but I am saying teaching is HARD work. It is exhausting but it can also be really rewarding. I have to think watching a child’s eyes light up when the information clicks for them is a great moment, but it’s also really nice to know that the long hours you put in are recognized. If your child comes home raving about a book they read or a project they did, send an email letting the teacher know your child really enjoyed it, easy things like that take less than two minutes but can have a big impact.
I’ve always told my children that while the adults go to work and they don’t have to, their work is school. We get out of bed every day and try our best and we expect that out of them. We’ve always treated school like our number one priority because it’s setting the foundation for lifelong learning and long-term success. I always say the years your child(ren) are in school can either be the best years or the worst years and it’s all in how you start. Teachers are your child’s advocate when you aren’t there and knowing they have your support is a big deal.