A Parent’s Role

Last school year I posted the first of a two-part series The Search for School. In honor of the new school year, here is Part 2 of 2!

So you’ve signed the contract. You have committed to be a part of this community. What does that mean?

1. It means you will have an active role. The expectation is that you read the email, letters, and articles that are sent to you. If a teacher or administrator sends information home for you to read, there is something in that literature that pertains to your child’s experience. Keep yourself informed about all of the events at the school and attend when you can. We are all tired at the end of the day, but make time, reserve a babysitter and attend those education events. Teachers have a lot of information to share, they want to help you understand your child’s experience. One way they do this is through education events. Being active also means getting to know other parents and families. Your child will be invited to many birthday party’s now. This does not mean you have to attend them all, but it is important that your child feel that you respect the social life she is building and help her connect with her peers outside of school.

2. Trust the process. It will take time for your child’s teacher to truly know her. But teachers are committed to that process. It is an essential part of the job to know each child as an individual, that is how they will best serve each child. But this takes time. In order for this to happen a child needs to trust her teacher and this happens as she has more experience at school. The way you can support this is by keeping her schedule. Be on time, don’t arbitrarily miss days of school, and let your child know that you trust her teacher and the school through your actions of acceptance. If you doubt your choice, the teacher, the drop off procedure…whatever it is, your child will sense it and develop conflicting feelings about school. This makes it harder for her to truly connect to her new community.

3. Be available. Be available to the classroom teacher. Let her know of any special talent you have that you could share with the class; playing an instrument, sharing a family tradition, baking, gardening…let her know and then don’t push. If she can incorporate that into her lessons she will. Teachers love to have parents involved when their child is ready to work side-by-side with their parent at school. And knowing a parents talents helps the teacher keep in mind how this might happen.

4. Answer the phone when the teacher calls. Rarely is it an emergency, but often an opportunity the teacher has to reach out. She has many parents to stay connected with and would like to have a short conversation with you. Because your child’s teacher is in class with students all day, everyday, and her first priority is being present to those children, the time she has to make calls is very limited. If possible, step out of that meeting and take the call, otherwise you may be in for a long game of phone tag.

5. Allow your child to show her gratitude. This should never be forced on a child, but should it naturally unfold from her, go with it. When my oldest was 1 1/2 years-old, he was attending a Montessori school in Seattle. Occasionally before we left for school I would make myself a lattè. One morning as I was making my lattè, he said, “Michelle!” (The name of his teacher.). I asked “does Michelle like Lattes?” He replied yes, and I offered to help him prepare a lattè for her. He went and got his step stool and a travel mug. Together we prepared a lattè for his teacher. This became something we did a couple times a week. And Michelle would always send the cleaned travel mug home at the end of the day. I’m not suggesting that you all send a lattè with your child everyday(though I fought it would hurt;), but I am suggesting that the ritual that my son and I had in the morning allowed him to think of his teacher and express his connection with her. It was an important part of the day for both of us.

6. Be open. In all the time his teacher spends with your child, she may see a side of him you didn’t know was there. She sees him in a setting with his peers, without his parents. Children often try out different aspects of their personalities at school. They are trying to discover who they are and who they want to be. This may take some trial and error. Try not to ask him about his time at school. As a parent it is difficult to resist, especially when you haven’t seen them for hours and you want to know what they have been experiencing! But they may not remember or even want to share it. It may be that they just want to be in the moment with you. When they are ready, they will share with you. Make it a ritual to share a little something about your day at your family dinner and he will start to participate. Let it happen naturally, grilling him will probably make him retreat and share less. For more on creating ritual check out the book The Intentional Family.

Hopefully there are some tips in here that will help support your family as you start this new school year. Have fun and enjoy, school is so much fun (for the children, parents, and teachers!)

I’d love to hear from you, what family rituals do you have around school?

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