A Successful School Start – Tips for Parents #TeachMeTuesday By Talia Shapero
September is here. A new school year. A fresh start ahead. A few weeks ago, I published a piece about how to start preparing for the upcoming academic year. Today I’d like to share some practical tips that should get you and your child off to a good start and hopefully quell some of the anxieties that are associated with the beginning of the school year.
- Make a visual timetable with your (younger) child
Once your child starts school, you should be given a schedule that outlines what the school day looks like. For children who find change a challenge, a visual timetable can give them a better sense of control and information about what their day will look like. Most likely their new teachers will have a pictorial representation of the day’s schedule (eg. attendance, carpet time, activities, snack, etc) but it can be helpful to make your own together, integrating your home schedule into your school schedule (eg. wake up, brush teeth, get dressed, breakfast, car ride to school, attendance, carpet time and so on).
- Be consistent with drop off
While your child might look distressed when you are dropping them off in the morning, it is often the parents who have the most difficulty walking out that classroom door. Whether you stick around for 5 minutes or give a kiss and go as soon as their coat is hung up, it is super important that you be consistent with your drop-off approach. Children thrive on routine and regularity. Speak to them before about how drop-off is going to go (in a casual, stress-free manner) and follow through with it. If you are really concerned, drop them off, wait in the office for a bit and either sneak a peek back in the classroom or ask someone from the office to phone/check in. As an experienced kindergarten teacher, I can tell you that 99% of the time, those tears and ear-curdling screams disappear within 3 minutes of a parent or caregiver leaving. If there really is an ongoing issue, your school should speak to you about it.
- Address concerns
Starting a new daycare or school can be just as daunting for parents as it is for children. It’s natural for you to have questions or concerns. Speak to your teacher right away if there is anything on your mind. Don’t let it fester for weeks and then explode. Often anxieties arise over things that we’re unsure of – tackle your concerns by arming yourself with knowledge. Your child’s teacher will be your closest partner this school year so make sure you are clear and direct (and of course, respectful) with your queries.
- Ask not what your teacher can do for you, but what you can do for your teacher
Your child’s teacher is an important ally in your child’s education and development. It can sometimes be tricky to form that trusting relationship at the beginning of the school year but I encourage you to have faith in their professional judgment when it comes to supporting your child. Whether it be academically, socially, or emotionally, your child’s teacher is there to support you both. Listen to their tips or suggestions even if you’re not quite sure it’s going to work. Remember – teachers are trained professionals who are experienced in dealing with a classroom of children. Children can behave very differently in a group educational setting than they might at home with their families so different strategies may be effective under different circumstances. If you’re not sure about something your child’s teacher has done, ask them about it – there is usually a good reason for why teachers may act or behave the way they do.
Going back to school is an exciting and potentially nerve-wracking time for both children and parents. Stay positive, stay informed, and form trusting relationships with your child’s teachers by keeping those lines of communication open and clear.
Talia Shapero is an experienced dual qualified teacher in Ontario and the UK who has a passion for early years education. She is co-founder of the Smart Cookie Club, a holistic, play-based learning program for toddlers and preschoolers and their parents and nannies.
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