Back-to-school is a time of new things: a new backpack, a new grade, a new classroom and a new teacher. Here are some insider tips to help you build a positive parent/teacher rapport right from the start.
Use the chosen communication tools.
Many teachers rely on student planner books for daily notes and updates. “It’s an important two-way communication tool between home and school,” says Tamara Smith*, an elementary teacher with the Waterloo Region District School Board. Find out what the expectations are and be diligent – for example, you may be asked to initial your child’s planner entry each day or add a note if an early pick-up will occur.
Alternatively, a teacher may provide electronic updates via e-mail, social media or a website/blog. “If a teacher is taking the time to post information on a particular platform, make an effort to try to follow it,” Tamara says. “It will provide useful updates and reminders about homework, classroom activities and upcoming events.” You may also want to follow the school’s social media feed for news and weather-related closures.
Read the teacher’s introductory letter.
Don’t skim it – read it carefully, as if there will be a quiz later. If a calendar is included, display it in a visible spot. If specific supplies are needed (like a combination lock or a box of tissues), send them in as soon as possible. Similarly, if families are being asked to refrain from sending in certain items (such as food treats for the entire class), be respectful of the request.
Do your homework.
There will be standard school forms for you to fill out and sign, to confirm medical and contact information. Whether they’re on paper or online, complete them promptly so that the teacher doesn’t have to chase you for them. If the school uses an online system for lunch orders and field trip payments, verify your login and password (or reset them if they’ve slipped your mind over the summer).
Be honest when asked about your child.
Some teachers may have a short “getting to know your child” questionnaire for you to fill out. As a teacher who has read many of them, Tamara advises: “Always be open and honest about your child’s learning style, interests, strengths, and so on. This helps in planning lessons, choosing read-aloud books and tailoring activities to the various learners in the class.”
“If the school has a ‘Meet the Teacher’ night, that is a valuable opportunity for teachers and parents to briefly interact,” Tamara says. “It also helps the teacher recognize you during pick-up and drop-off times.” If you have the time and inclination, feel free to offer your services as an in-class helper, field trip volunteer or Play-Doh maker.
Stay in touch.
A meet-and-greet or open house night is not the time to get into an elaborate discussion about your child’s specific needs. Instead, inquire about the teacher’s preferred method of communication and contact him/her directly to arrange a private meeting or phone call where you can cover any special considerations or concerns. Make sure the teacher has your updated contact information, so he/she can contact you if necessary.
Be on time.
When a student arrives late, it is disruptive and causes distractions in the classroom. Plan and prepare as much as possible in advance, so that your child arrives at school on time and ready to learn. Consider adding a “final backpack check” to your morning routine to confirm that your child has his/her lunch, planner and library books.
By putting your child’s name on all school belongings (including his/her backpack, lunch bag, water bottle and shoes), you can help your child and the teacher avoid lost items and stressful mix-ups.
Keep things in perspective.
“Please remember that teachers are human and do make mistakes,” Tamara says. “The beginning of a new school year is a busy time for everyone.” Naturally, you will be entirely focused on your own star student, but keep in mind that teachers have an entire class of students who need their attention. The good news is, you both have the same goal: to ensure your child has a great year at school!
*Name changed by request.