When Mary Lou Youngberg’s boys were growing up, she often volunteered at their school. She did everything - from working as a classroom mother to a PTA officer and Scout leader.
“When my children were older and we were facing the ‘empty nest,’ my husband encouraged me to return to school to get my teaching degree,” said Youngberg. “Now that I am teaching full-time, I want to go back to every teacher my sons ever had and tell them how much I admire and appreciate their decision to enter this challenging profession.”
Youngberg describes her teacher training as amazing.
“I learned that it is my job to inform parents that children go through developmental stages and that every child is unique and special. Every child has a learning style, and parents do too,” Youngberg said. “I have learned that it is very difficult to convey what it is that makes the teaching profession so challenging, yet so rewarding and worthwhile. It seems to me that we teachers share a joy and passion for working with children that others do not comprehend or appreciate.”
Here are some tips that teachers wish all parents could know to help make for a great school year:
Be informed. Attend open houses and PTA meetings – no matter how old your child is. Read information sent home by your child’s teacher. It's amazing how often parents ask teachers questions about information that was addressed in newsletters or other correspondence. Become familiar with school curriculum, policies and procedures. If your school has a website, check it out.
Be responsible. Respond to signature requests promptly. Send lunch money, field trip money, PTA dues, etc. in a timely fashion. Teachers spend precious time sending home reminders about this and more. Make it a habit to check your child’s folder or backpack daily for notes and information from school. Be on time for conferences. Also, label all your child’s belongings, including jackets and backpacks.
Be a good role model. Demonstrate the importance of following school rules and procedures. Make sure your child gets to school AND is picked up on time. If your child is supposed to sit and read quietly in the cafeteria before school, make sure she has a book in her backpack. Look for opportunities to meet and greet all the adults your child will encounter at school.
Be supportive. Join PTA and attend meetings. Offer to volunteer. Even if you are unable to go on field trips or volunteer during the school day, you may be able to help in other ways. Perhaps you could prepare classroom materials at home in the evening.
Be reasonable. If you need to meet with the teacher, request a meeting. It is hard for teachers to have quick unscheduled conferences when they are trying to keep up with their class. If your child is sick, keep him home from school.
Encourage good homework habits. Help your child understand the importance of completing homework assignments on time. You can help and encourage your child, but make sure the final product reflects her effort, not yours. When parents provide structure and guidance - then allow their children to learn from their mistakes as well as their successes - it shows they care. If your child is struggling with a particular topic, talk with the teacher about ways you can help. Look over your child’s work to reinforce the concepts the school is teaching.
Keep the teacher informed. Send a note or talk to your child’s teacher about issues that may affect your child’s performance at school. If your child is dealing with grief, divorce, sibling rivalry, nervousness about an upcoming event or excitement about a visit from out-of-town grandparents, it is good to share this information. Make sure the teacher knows about health issues such as asthma or allergies. Provide information on what procedures to follow in the event of an allergic reaction.
Encourage healthy habits. Whether your child buys or brings a lunch, emphasize good nutrition. Avoid sending sugary snacks to school and have healthy snacks on hand at home. Encourage your child to spend time being physically active through play or sports. Make sure your child gets enough sleep.
Read together. Children benefit enormously when parents read with them. Make reading together a daily habit. Have discussions about reading and talk about books as you take turns reading out loud. When possible, help your child acquire age-appropriate books about topics that interest him.
Express Appreciation. Teachers strive to inspire students to be lifelong learners. They often make their work look effortless, but it requires a lot of expertise and countless planning hours to do what they do.
“It is important to remember that teachers teach because of the things they believe in,” Youngberg said. “They want each child’s special interests and talents to be nurtured. Teachers know that once you give children the tools and experiences to make learning relevant, they truly will be lifelong learners.”