There is little that tugs on the heart strings in your child’s young life as much sending them to school for the first time. Your precious little one will be spending much of their days with their teacher—an adult you’ve probably not met before. This teacher will become an important part of their life and serve as another role model in becoming the person they will grow to be. Shocking when you think of it that way, isn’t it? I had a tough time with this notion when we sent our oldest to Kindy; how could someone else become so central to my baby boy’s life? (It happens.) Before you start rethinking this whole idea of your child attending school, consider this: with a little planning, effort, some time spent at school, and remaining in the cohort mindset, you and the teacher can be partners in providing your child an amazing Kindergarten experience!
This partnering begins with you attending any orientations and meet-the-teacher events at the beginning of the school year. At this early stage, this is the best way for you and your child to become acquainted with the teacher and the school—especially if this is your oldest child and you have little school experience as a parent. Yes, these are often held in the evening and take time and disrupt your routine for that night. We’ve missed our share of football, music lessons, and bedtimes to attend these meetings! However, the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience. This is the start of your relationship, like a first date—you want to make a good impression! Teachers do note who attends and who does not, so going to these events suggests to the teacher that you are involved and can be counted upon. Setting up such a dynamic is a very good starting place in your relationship with this person whom your child will spend much time.
Another good start to the parent-teacher relationship is in reading all the material they send home. And trust me—they will send a ton of written information home for you to read. No, they don’t do this for fun; this really is the best way to disseminate all the nitty-gritty details of procedures and routines in their classroom and of the school in general. Keep in mind that teachers spend a lot of time preparing these materials. These items lay out the workings of this learning environment they are creating, so it’s personal to them—especially when it’s obvious that a parent has not bothered to read these items. I made the mistake of putting off reading some of these materials when our oldest started Kindy, and then thoughtlessly asked a question that was answered about 20 times in the written materials. Yikes! His teacher very politely answered my question, but also gently reminded me to please read my materials. Embarrassing. I’ve not made that mistake since.
A mistake I chose to never make was skipping the meetings the teacher has called to discuss our child’s progress. Some teachers call them conferences, some call them parent-teacher meetings, but these are one of the best ways to see and hear exactly how your little one is advancing academically, socially, and emotionally in Kindergarten. You’ll discuss your child’s strengths and any needs they may have. So, go to these with bells on! Make a list of questions you have before you go, and ask them during this precious one-on-one time with the teacher, as they show you samples of your child’s work in class and share their observations and professional opinions. Attending these is so meaningful for the teacher, as well. It lends to them feeling their work and their time are valued by you. When they feel valued, they reach out to partner with you, too, further strengthening the parent-teacher relationship. We so enjoy these meetings with our children’s teachers—it’s an amazing way to see how our kids are doing, as well as further building that partnership with their teachers.
Are you itching to be a literal partner in your child’s class? Do you like working with kids? Then you are prime candidate to volunteer in your child’s class. This is an amazing glimpse into the workings of the classroom, the rapport that the teacher has with the students, and to see what and how the children are learning. You may be asked to help with preparing materials (cutting, gluing, sewing) or you may work with a small group of students on tasks (skills practice, projects, enrichment activities). Your children will most likely revel in having you in class. Mine were often so proud to have their Mum want to come to their school and work in class. Plus, studies have shown that student achievement and parent involvement are linked. As if that’s not enough reason, your willingness to spend time there will mean so much to your child’s teacher, not only in having an extra set of hands, but also in showing that you trust and respect this person and the important job they are doing. If you are unable to be physically present during the school day, make a habit of sending in requested materials or supplies for special days or projects. This is another very helpful way to be involved, and being an involvement parent is a huge piece of the partnership pie.
Of course, not all school days or school years feel like dancing in a field of poppies. Problems can and do arise. It’s fairly universal that when a problem arises that involved our children, we parents tend to become protective rather quickly. Sometimes without hearing all sides of the story. I made this mistake once with our second oldest child, as she came home telling me that she was punished for taking another child’s crayons—which she swore she didn’t do. What? You were punished for something you didn’t do? All my protective mothering instincts came out and I called the teacher feeling rather irate. When the teacher explained all of what happened, I had egg on my face and had to apologize. Suffice to say my daughter wasn’t totally truthful with me, and the consequence of her actions weren’t exactly punishment, but the natural outcroppings of what she chose to do. When a problem or concern arises, call the teacher or request a meeting. Calmly state the issue and then genuinely listen to what the teacher shares about it. This demonstrates respect for the teacher, while at the same time advocating for your child. Most teachers are genuinely caring, heartfelt people who love working with children and families. They generally want everyone to get along and to solve problems fairly and quickly.
Teachers are professionals charged with the education of our youth. Always remember: teachers are human—just like you and me. They are generally people doing a job they are passionate about. They value involvement, honesty, and genuine partnership. A little planning, effort, and initiative on the part of us parents go a long way to building a lasting trust that—in the end—benefits all involved, especially our children. Your child will feel pride at your involvement, and will be positively impacted by seeing their parents and teachers working together for their advantage. After all, that’s what you and the teacher both want: the very best for your child.
Written by: Bridget Bumpus, Kindergarten teacher (15 years)