As school starts, kids have certain concerns—do they have the right supplies, cool sneakers and backpack, a friend to chat with on the bus and in class? A new year means new teachers, different work, and a new social situation.
We parents have concerns, too. How long will it take the teacher to understand my child’s learning style, to check in when necessary, to modify the work or homework when my child needs this? If there is an aide or paraprofessional in class, will they work only with my child or with a larger group? What is this person’s training and experience? How long before my child starts receiving the services in his IEP?
Even a child without a specific learning or social problem has needs. They need to understand the teacher’s style and the material being taught, to understand the homework, to feel comfortable asking questions.
The first few weeks of school are very important for your child—academically, socially, and emotionally. The ability to ask questions and have material presented in a slightly different way is essential for effective learning. Few children will feel comfortable without at least one friend. There needs to be a good “fit” between child and teacher, in terms of style and expectations. As parents, we need to think about how our child learns best and whether his social style and difficulties will be an issue.
I suggest thinking about your child’s individual learning style, strengths and weaknesses. What are your top three concerns as the school year begins?
- Academics: reading levels, comprehension, math skills, writing or spelling
- Social issues: peer group problems, bullying, isolation, lack of friendships, shyness
- Emotional concerns: social anxiety, withdrawal or school avoidance, negative emotions arising from learning difficulties, behaviors in class or during recess
- Organization challenges: poor attention, disorganization, forgetfulness, problems handling larger assignments with a number of steps, study skills
- Logistics: a health problem for the child or a family member, a recent loss, scheduling problems that may affect homework on certain days, a child who is a really slow worker
Some parents request a meeting with teacher and specialists in the first 2-3 weeks. Some send an email or a letter, describing their child’s style and the parent’s concerns. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but it’s important to establish a mode of communication that works for you and the teachers. Be sure to save your communications in a notebook or folder (electronic or hard copies) so you can refer to them later in the year. This will help you remember what has been discussed and what the teacher agreed to do. It will allow you to monitor your child’s success or difficulty in meeting the expectations of the year. Start in September, when the work load is light and everyone is getting to know your child.
Remember, if you want the school to help with the issues that concern you, they need to know what those issues are. A basic management principle is “that which is measured, can be managed”. When you communicate your child’s needs and keep track of progress, you increase the chances that school personnel will help your child manage those issues and make effective progress.
Good luck! I wish you and your child a satisfying, low stress, successful school year.