Back-to-School Tips for Parents: Communication
With the end of summer comes the start of a new school year. Ahhh, a sigh of relief because everyone can get back into a routine. As students go back to school, we should consider ways to help them have a successful year. Parents want their children to do well at school both academically and socially, and a key factor in success at school is communication. Parents and school officials, whether it be the school nurse, the principal, or the classroom instructor, need to be able to communicate effectively with one another.
Why communication with school officials is so important
As parents it is our responsibility to know what's going on in our child's life. The average school day is 7-8 hours long, so a third of a child's life during the school year is spent away from family. From the child's perspective, you as a parent are showing your child you care about them when you take an interest in what is going on at school. Now the typical reply when I ask my son what he did at school today is, "Nothing," or "I don't remember." But the important point is that I am letting my son know I am interested and I am trying to keep track of what he is doing. Ultimately, I am letting him know that I care about him.
From the parent's perspective, you might not get a lot of answers from your children about what goes on at school, but you need to definitely take the initiative to find out basic information. Why? So you can encourage your child, monitor their progress, and ensure they are learning. If your child doesn't communicate information to you, the school (usually through the classroom teacher) will.
Steps to communicating with school
- Establish contact:Typically, the school establishes contact with parents before the school year begins with mailings and forms to be filled out. Many schools also schedule Open Houses where children and parents are encouraged to come and visit the classroom. Take advantage of this opportunity and visit the classroom, even if your schedule is extremely busy. You as the parent should meet the teacher face-to-face in a positive atmosphere at the beginning of the school year, so you understand how the teacher runs the classroom and what expectations the teacher has for students. Review these expectations at home with your child.
If there is not an "Open House" activity scheduled at your child's school, make an appointment with the teacher to find out how the teacher organizes the classroom and what the expectations are for students.
Often teachers send home information at the beginning of the year, so you might be provided with a written copy of a classroom overview. Read through the information, and if your child is in elementary school, go over the information with them. Often this reviewing of information with the child (and reminding the child every so often about classroom procedures) prevents problems from developing. Clear communication at the start can alleviate issues in the future.
- Stay tuned in: Often teachers send home information with students about what is going on in the classroom. Some teachers send home written information, while others may communicate through a webpage. Know what your child is learning about, and try to reinforce those topics at home through discussion, or reading, or some activity. This illustrates to children that the information they are learning in school is useful, relevant and important.
- Follow-up: In order to monitor your child's progress, follow-up with continued communication. This could be as easy as signing the homework to show that your child has shared information with you or more structured as in a scheduled conference time with a teacher.
When you need to communicate with the teacher, remember the teacher is teaching during school hours so a phone call in the middle of the day may not be the most appropriate way. At Open house or conference time, ask the instructor what method of communication works best -- email, written communication through the student or a phone call. Be considerate and appreciate the fact a teacher has a whole classroom of students with individual needs, and the teacher has limited time.
The method of communication is also dependent on the urgency of the situation. There are times when a teacher needs to be made aware of some information immediately, but keep in mind a teacher does not have a lot of extra time to spend talking on the phone or answering email. When communicating with the instructor or school personnel, get to the point quickly because school personnel should spend most of their time with students.
To provide an effective educational experience for your child, develop good communication with the people who work with your child at school. They are there to help you and your child, and you in turn, should help them by communicating appropriately in a timely effective manner. Be respectful, always!
Your child is important, so make time to communicate with school personnel.
Note: I will be continuing to write a series of articles that will include topics on children, schools, and communication (for example-- what to do if you disagree with teacher, attending conferences, attending iep meetings, etc.)