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HomeFamilyParenting AdviceTips for Back to School Night: Good Parenting with Dr. Debbie

Tips for Back to School Night: Good Parenting with Dr. Debbie

Dear Dr. Debbie,

My wife and I have lined up our babysitter and are excited to go to Back to School Night for our 1st  and 3rd grade children. (For the past 2 years these were virtual presentations.) The last time we stepped into a classroom was when the older one started kindergarten and life with 3 children and a pandemic has been a blur since then.

How do we make the most of this opportunity?

Back to School Jitters

—-

Dear BtSJ,

Remember that teachers, too, are nervous and excited. The purpose of this night is for the teachers, school administration, and Parent-Teacher organization leadership to disseminate a lot of information. Unless the evening’s schedule allows for two classroom visits, you and your wife should decide who gets to meet which teacher. If one of you is the main homework helper, make this decision based on which teacher the homework helper needs more clarification from.

The event is also a chance to make a connection toward a good working relationship between families and the school. There will be information and sign-ups about after school (and maybe before school) activities such as scouts and sports, and for volunteer opportunities for the parents. This is the time for the community to organize for moving forward for a great school year.

Do’s

  1. Dress for school. If your daytime attire is a business suit, change to something more suitable for a community meeting. An elementary school teacher comes to work prepared for the active messes of children. You don’t want to overpower the room with shoulder pads and a tightly tied tie. Neither should you appear in your work apron, mechanic overalls, surgery scrubs, nor pilot uniform if you can help it. Save that kind of attention for Career Day. It’s best to look like the parents of three young children. Which leads to Tip #2. You want to look approachable.
  2. Make a friend. Before the meeting, get possible names from your children for classmates they would like to have playdates with. Your mission is to make contact with the parents. Students’ names may be on the desks (with the teacher’s request for you to sit there), or she may have name tags for parents to wear so you can find your target. Get a friendly conversation going about how your child named their child as someone they are glad is in the class. Exchange emails or phone numbers. If you can, make a date for this coming weekend to meet up at a park! This isn’t just for social reasons (yours and the children’s); a classmate is an invaluable resource for questions about homework assignments.
  3. Take notes. You’ll probably find the experience overwhelming with old and new faces all around you and needing to navigate your way around the building through the crowd. Rest assured that much of the information you’ll be getting will also be available online, but you need a clue as to what you’re looking for and how to find it. There will probably be handouts. Come prepared with a pen so you can circle, underline, and jot notes on them. (You’re the student tonight, so be a good one!)
  4. Give the teacher a positive comment. She may not remember which parent said, “We know this’ll be a great year!” and which one said, “I’ll be signing up to volunteer!” but it will please her to know that there are parents who are as eager for a good school year as she is.

Don’t’s

  1. This is not a one-on-one about your child. Refrain from engaging in a private conversation with the teacher other than a quick hello before or after her presentation. If you have a concern, use the information she gives out about how and when to best reach her.
  2. School bus issues, and the teacher shortage (which may mean she is on temporary assignment for this class), are not her fault nor are they her responsibility to fix. We have a national crisis and solutions will come from hard work outside of this classroom and this school. Instead of griping to the wrong person, see if there are efforts you can join to organize car pools, recruit substitutes, influence county and state funding, and otherwise get involved in possible solutions.
  3. Is that a Volunteer sign-up? Don’t think that schools can be successful without the invaluable contributions of time from parents and other community members. Instead of thinking that volunteering is someone else’s job, consider how you can pitch in with time, talents, contacts, and or materials that otherwise would cost the school money. See if the teacher has a Wish List of items for the classroom or dates when volunteers are particularly needed. Don’t deprive the children of enriching experiences because you didn’t step up.
  4. Remember that one goal of this night is to make connections between the school and your family. Don’t forget to take home at least one impression of each child’s classroom or teacher that you found particularly wonderful. Assumedly your children will be asleep when you get home, so you may need to jot this down for breakfast conversation. “Your classroom has a great view of the school garden!” “Your teacher is a hockey fan!” “That white board thing is pretty cool!” and so on. Don’t take your phone out during the teacher’s presentation, unless the teacher tells everyone to do so, but before you go, snap a selfie in the room. You need to impress each child that indeed, you spent enough time in the space to know they are in for a great year of learning.

Children benefit when they see that they are surrounded by grown-ups who are working together to assure their success.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist and founding director of Chesapeake Children’s Museum.  She will be presenting a series of Zoom workshops for parents, starting Monday, October 3.

The museum is open with online reservations or call: 410-990-1993.

Visit the Children’s Activities Tent at the Kunta Kinte Festival this Saturday at Susan Campbell Park at the Annapolis City Dock where CCM will be presenting traditional crafts from west Africa! Admission is free. Get details on the entertainment schedule and parking tips before you go.

Read more of Dr. Wood’s Good Parenting columns by clicking here.

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