As soon as your child begins preschool or kindergarten, the addition of a teacher in her life marks a profound milestone. To date, it’s only been you, perhaps your spouse or partner and her, but now there’s a woman or man who sets the tone for her behavior and establishes expectations and sets limits in a classroom. From this point on, teachers will be pivotal figures in your precious child’s life.
So, how do you make a positive start when embarking on a new relationship each year with your child’s new teacher? The most important step is simple: introduce yourself and your child to school by sharing information. Here are 5 key ways to do so:
1. Nice to meet you. Preferably your first contact with the teacher will be in person, though an email or handwritten note makes a fine introduction as well. Keep your initial meeting positive, letting your child’s teacher know how important your child’s education is to you, adding that you’d like to be called upon to help in the classroom, if that’s an option.
2. Talk about your child and her home. The next step is to tell your teacher key things about your child that could affect his or her success and/or behavior in the classroom. Any health conditions, such as asthma, allergies, diabetes, etc., are vital to discuss in detail. Learning issues that have been diagnosed, such as ADHD, are also important to discuss with the teacher so that he or she is aware of behavior and concentration issues your child may exhibit. And don’t forget to mention any family issues or household changes: Is there a new baby in the home? Has a parent recently lost his or her job? Has a beloved pet recently passed away? Your teacher can be your ally in keeping an eye out for any behavioral changes in your child as a result of stressors at home.
3. What’s your child’s personality like? Is your child extremely shy? Loud and outgoing? A sore loser at games and activities? A compassionate helper? This is important information for the teacher to have.
4. What’s your child’s learning style? By now you’re probably aware of whether your child learns best through hands-on experience (“Do it myself!”) or is more of a visual or auditory learner. Share this knowledge with her teacher.
5. Subject likes and dislikes. Does your child prefer reading above all else? Perhaps he enjoys working with numbers and computations. Or maybe he’d rather focus on a science experiment than do anything else. This is important for the teacher to be aware of; it might explain early on to the teacher why your budding scientist zones out during reading time. Hobbies and special interests are also important to share with the teacher.
Chill out, but prepare for the Parent Teacher Conference
Unless a specific concern arises, allow several weeks to go by before making contact again with your child’s teacher. This gives the teacher plenty of time to observe your child and assess her academic and social progress.
When you see the teacher at the first parent teacher conference, asking the following questions can help you get all the information you will need to see how your child is faring, academically and socially:
Questions about academic progress
- What is my child’s daily schedule like?
- What is the class studying and learning this year?
- How much and what kind of homework will my child have? How much time do you expect my child to spend on homework?
- What kind of tests and feedback will you be giving?
- What can I do to support my child’s learning at home?
- How can I help out in the classroom?
- When and for what reasons do you want me to contact you? What’s the best way for me to communicate with you? When, how, and for what reasons will you contact me?
- What tutoring or other help is available to my child should she need it?
Questions about social progress
- Does my child get along well with others?
- Does my child participate well in group activities?
- Is my child able to focus? Can she spend time on an activity on her own?
- If needed, how can I help my child develop better social skills?
- Is there anything you’ve noticed about my child that I should know? Do we need to address any concerns?
Next to parents, teachers probably provide the most important adult relationships your child will have during his academic career. By spending time at the beginning of each school year letting your child’s teacher know more about him, you can successfully set the stage for positive communication and a productive relationship for each year ahead.