August 4, 2009

WFMW: Back-to-School Tips from a Teacher

This week, WFMW is a back-to-school edition. As a former public school teacher, here are my tips for parents:
  • Write your child's name on their school supplies, especially in early elementary grades. You don't have to write the name on every pencil, but folders, scissors and glue should probably be labled. The same goes for bookbags, especially if your school requires all students to have a clear backpack.
  • Fill out all forms completely. I know you filled out the same form last year, and you have 4 kids. But I can't rely on last year's information. Many students move from year to year, or even during the school year. If you happen to move during the school year, please notify all teachers and the school office.
  • Keep medical information updated. If your child has any type of allergies, takes regular medication, or anything similar, please tell the school nurse AND me. If your child has to take the medication at school, please make sure that the nurse has medication on hand. Try to not let the medication run out. Some types of medications wear off very quickly, causing a big change in behavior even one day off of the medication. Your child's behavior doesn't just affect your child; it also effects the rest of the class. If a student suddenly starts acting out of character, it is a distraction to other students, and it takes my time away from teaching the rest of the class.
  • Have your student memorize your name, where you work, a reliable phone number, and a reliable home address. Accidents happen, and kids miss the bus. Having a student reply that their mom's name is "Mommy" and she works at "a store" isn't terribly helpful. Even a small child can learn a parent's name and a phone number.
  • If you happen to have the time, offer to help out during the school year. Don't worry that you will be at the school every day. Sometimes, just knowing that there is a supportive parent in the class can be a Godsend. At the most, I might ask you to read with a slower student, or tag along on a field trip. Did I mention that chaperons usually get to go on the trip free? :)
  • Support me at your home. I know that personalities can clash, and I'll admit that some teachers don't do a great job. But there are far more good teachers who genuinely care. If you have concerns about me, please talk to me directly, not through your student.
  • If you have religious concerns or obligations, please let me know. Some kids don't celebrate any holidays, while others just skip Halloween and pictures of Santa. Knowing what level of diversity I have in my class will help me better plan the school year. Depending on the school district, you might even be able to come in and share some holiday traditions with the class, if you're so inclined.
  • If you have concerns about your student's behavior, please tell me when your student can't hear. At the beginning of each year, there was always at least one parent who would come in with the student and loudly proclaim how troublesome the student was going to be. I know it's been a long summer, but be mindful of the effect your words have on your child. Kids live up to expectations, good or bad.
  • While we're on the subject, be careful of over praising. Kids know if they've done a good job. By all means, be supportive and encouraging, but don't overkill. Praising every small thing repeatedly just makes it harder to truly praise a noteworthy accomplishment.
  • Please try to show up for parent-teacher meetings, award ceremonies, school plays, etc. I know that you don't want to disappoint your student. If you're not going to be able to make it to an event, please tell your student beforehand so they don't anxiously watch the crowd. I will be happy to reschedule a meeting with you at a later date.
  • If you're going to give me a teacher appreciation present or Christmas present, think giftcards! I would love a giftcard to Target, Wal-Mart, Office Max, etc. Even $5 would be great. I really do have lots of coffee mugs, pens, and lotions.
  • Don't forget that YOU are your child's most important teacher! I can teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, but you can teach responsibility, wisdom, and ambition. I will have your student for 180 days, but you have him for life.


  1. Very, very nice and true indeed. All are valid points my teaching friend. :) I look forward to meeting you tomorrow! Hope you have an awesome day!

  2. Great tips! I'm a teacher too and these are right on.

    Come by and visit me!


  3. These are all great too! From one former teacher to another!

  4. Most of your tips I do already, but I love the gift idea one, It's so hard to figure out what to get that isn't expensive, and we want the teachers to know they are thought of and appreciated! Good tip!

  5. Another teacher in agreement, especially about talking to me if there is something you think I should know about your child (learning, health, etc.). Don't think that I'll see it simply because you wrote it on a form. Schools don't always understand privacy laws, and will keep this information from their teachers. I can't help if I don't know.

  6. Hi, thanks for the great reminders. I like the idea of memorizing your mother's name and phone number. Hey, tell me that you have the package!! Or I'll think my kids heisted the money that they said they used to mail it. LOL...

  7. Great tips! I was a teacher once, too, and I think I am a better informed parent because of it.

    I like to give gift cards to Barnes and Noble. Teachers already have way to many "apple" things!


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