Back to School: Communication

By: Jennifer Lonergan

Back to school.

Never has this phrase elicited so many feelings from parents and children.

As a child, I loved back to school. New supplies, my beloved trapper keeper and seeing my friends again.

As a parent, I also loved back to school. Being a stay-at-home mom of four and keeping the kids entertained for the summer months, the break and start of a new routine was always welcome.

It is important to use the tools that we have to control the things that we can. Personal relationships tops this list. Keeping open lines of communication with your children and educators in your cities and towns is key to keeping stress levels down. 

For the benefit of yourself and your family, the parent-teacher relationship has never been more important.

In a recent article in the New York Times by freelance journalist Katherine Cusumano, she points out different things that parents can do to establish great communication between themselves and their child’s teacher:

Establish relationships early

Depending on the age of your child and how many siblings they have, some of these might already be done. You might already have a relationship with a teacher that another one of your children may have had. You may already be involved with different school organizations. But even with these histories, your communication will be different.

Share what you know

Sharing what you know about your child can provide great insight for the teacher. For most of us, the students are spending less, if not any, time in the classroom. It would be harder for the teacher to develop a relationship with the student traditionally since they are spending less time with them. Any type of knowledge you can provide the teacher with that will help them understand your child more will therefore have a more successful year of teaching them.

Ask questions 

Ask questions. It’s simple. We grew up with the expression “no question is too small”. Have a list prepared. It will help organize your thoughts and make sure you don’t miss anything. Ask about expectations whether in the classroom or remotely. Ask about the grading system and make sure your child understands it as well.

Set expectations for communicating

Your expectations for communicating is probably going to be your most important task for the school year. Remember, most teachers are parents too and also dealing with the pandemic. They may be at home teaching while also having their own children home learning. Ask them the best way to be in contact with them. Some may have set up office hours for communication with parents. This is a challenging time for everybody and patience is necessary.

Create a plan to hit goals

Creating a plan to hit goals has always been a part of academic measure. Especially those students in special needs that have an IEP. Also for students in the beginning years of education through middle school. Those goals will look different now. Those goals may just be about attendance. Or from picking up from where school left off in the spring. Make sure the goal expectation for your child is clear to you from their educator.

Get active with the PTA

Being active with the PTA has always been a great resource in knowing what is going on in your school. With the current situation, your calendar may have a lot of holes in it! You may have more free time to dedicate towards these types of clubs and organizations. Many of them don’t even require you to get out of your pajamas. You can sign into a video meeting from home.

Regardless of the pandemic, open lines of communication, clear understanding and expectations have always served well in all circumstances.

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