Tips for Teachers and Parents on the First Day of School
As parents and teachers, we begin a new school year with fresh energy and enthusiasm.
Parents look forward to new teachers and new learning opportunities for our children, and we hope that they’ll inspire our kids to learn and thrive. Perhaps most important, we hope that the new teachers will “get” our kids, whether they’re shy first graders or jaded 15-year-olds—see and encourage their talents, appreciate their efforts, identify their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses.
Teachers look forward to meeting and working with new students, trying out new ideas, seeing kids grow and enjoying their creativity.
A big contributor to student success in the coming year is the partnership their parents and teachers are able to form. Here are some important things parents and teachers should think about to help form an effective alliance on behalf of kids, especially those who find school challenging and may need some extra help to fulfill their potential.
1. Parents need to talk to kids about school.
Study after study show that kids make healthier choices, do better in school, and have higher self-esteem if they have warm, positive communication with their parents. To help kids succeed, parents need to ask direct questions on a regular basis and be familiar with the details of a child’s school experience.
2. Parents and teachers should communicate early and often.
The fact is that children behave differently at home and at school. Teachers spend six hours a day with children, and we can count on them to have a keen sense of how children learn and behave. It’s critical that parents talk to a child’s teacher to find out how well she is functioning at school—academically and socially—and that teachers, in turn, are open to insights from parents about their children’s strengths, vulnerabilities, and needs.
3. Parent-teacher conference should be for problem solving.
Both parents and teachers should approach conference time with questions they want to ask, concerns they want to share, issues they want to address. It’s often your chance to get to know each other better, compare notes, set common goals and prioritize efforts.
4. Don’t delay getting support for a child who is struggling.
If there are concerns about a child’s school performance, don’t wait to see if the problem will go away. Discuss measures that can be put in place in the classroom, and what you can do at home, to address problems. Agree on follow-up communication, and initiate an evaluation if services may be warranted.
5. Monitor a child’s moods as well as his performance.
Teachers and parents should both be alert to changes in a child’s mood or behavior, especially children who have learning issues. Emotional well-being is a major contributor to school success, and kids who are challenged by learning can become easily demoralized. It’s important to pay attention to changes in personality and mood in the same way you would track homework assignments and performance on tests. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to anxiety and depression, and the earlier a psychiatric issue is addressed, the better the outcome.#
Harold S. Koplewicz is the president of the Child Mind Institute, dedicated to transforming mental health care for children everywhere. Childmind.org provides tools and resources for parents and educators, including the Parents Guide to Getting Good Care, the Symptom Checker, which connects symptoms and behavior to possible childhood psychiatric and learning disorders, and the Mental Health Guide, which has been updated to include changes in DSM-5.