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Back to School Nights Answer Most of Your Questions

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Most of us now have a week of school under our belts; the routine is setting in; homework should be coming home; the nerves should be settling down. If you haven’t already, have some specific conversations about what’s happening in school. Who is your favorite teacher? Who is the least favorite? What are you most excited about? Are there any new kids in school? How are they fitting in? Be prepared with a bunch of follow-up questions, starting with “Why?” Make the answers be specific.

When you have these conversations, don’t try to talk your kids in or out of things. Just listen. Try to get as much information as you can. Ask them if they want to hear your opinions and suggestions, and don’t get hurt feelings if they don’t! Your goal is to learn as much as possible about how things are going and if any areas of concern are emerging.

In addition to these kinds of conversations, make sure you have made arrangements to attend the back to school events for parents. These often have varying names – Parents’ Night, Back to School Night, Orientation – but their purpose is generally the same. They want parents to meet the teachers, learn about the students’ schedules and routines, feel comfortable in the school, and hear about programs, assessments, and expectations. I recommend you make a little card with all your contact information for anyone who will be working with your student. Include email addresses both home and work, phone numbers, and notations to guide the communication --if you work nights and therefore sleep during the day, or if you absolutely cannot be contacted at work, or if there is another person to contact if the school cannot reach you.

I have scanned the calendars from our local schools, and most will be doing something during the third week of September. Go to your school’s website to confirm times and locations. Remember: these types of events generally don’t allow extended time with the teachers. Introduce yourself, let them know you support them and want to know –good and bad – about your student’s progress, hand them your index card with your information on it, and enjoy the rest of the gathering. Don’t expect specific information about individual grades or a lot of detail about the teachers’ philosophies of education or justification of their math curriculum. Those conversations require more time.

No matter what age your student is, you must stay involved! If you can’t volunteer at the school for even one day, make sure you read the newsletter, visit the website regularly, check in briefly with the teacher, visit your kids’ classrooms if possible. Make sure you have other parents you can talk to, and if you have a question, ask. If you think something’s wrong, you’re probably right. Ask!

Finally, if you have any questions I can help with, please use my email to ask. I’ll answer quickly. I may ask for your phone number so I can call. I may even ask permission to use your question in this column. But I’m telling you the same thing I tell your children: Don’t wait if you need help! Always ask if you have doubts or need clarification. And never try to do this alone! There are lots of people who want success for you and your family.

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