Now that the dust has settled from the annual start-of-school chaos, it’s a good idea to have a game plan for keeping your child focused when the excitement wears off. Taking an organized, pro-active approach to being involved in your child’s school year now will pay dividends by year-end (and when the stress of homework or exams gets a little too much!).
- If you haven’t already done so, learning as much as possible about your child’s school and its administration should be your very first step. Make sure you know the principal’s name and the names of any associate or assistant heads, as well as the school’s daily and yearly schedule. (Many schools mail this information to you, and it should also be available on the school’s website or by calling the principal’s office).
- Learn the names of each of your child’s teachers and keep a record of their direct contact information. Better yet, make an appointment to meet with each teacher. Many schools organize open houses or “meet the faculty” evenings early in the school year for precisely this reason, and it’s a great way to connect with all of your child’s teachers at the same time. If you want to hold a more private conversation with each teacher, you’ll need to make a separate appointment, however.
- Brush up on the school’s guidelines for health, safety and discipline then discuss them with your child. Ask them to explain whether they think the rules are reasonable, and discuss what the school’s rationale might be for each one. Involving your child in this kind of conversation will ensure he/she is clear about the school’s expectations and his/her responsibilities as a member of the school community.
- If your child attends a boarding school, it’s still very important to make personal connections with your child’s teachers. While your child’s dorm parent, counselor or advisor may be designated as the primary source of communication about your child’s progress and well-being, establishing a direct connection to each teacher can be a vital asset if problems arise. Likewise, classroom teachers see a different side of your child’s behavior and can often report progress and achievements that his/her advisor may not be in a position to notice. Finally, most boarding schools usually host a parents’ weekend during the first term and this is another important means of establishing a strong, communicative relationship with the people serving as your child’s on-site support system.
- Get directly involved in the school community by volunteering your time and/or services. Something as simple as supervising recess for an hour each week, helping to organize a fundraiser or chaperoning a field trip will help you get to know the school from the inside – and since actions often speak louder than words, it’s also a wonderful way to show your child just how important you believe his/her school is. And again, even if your child attends a boarding school, you can still volunteer by serving as a liaison between other boarding parents and school administration, helping to organize fundraisers, work on newsletters or providing on-site assistance during special events like orientation, alumni or parents’ weekends.
- Research available resources before you need them. In an ideal world your child wouldn’t need any additional help, but the truth is most kids need a little extra support every once in a while. Finding out what’s available now means you’ll know exactly who to call should the need arise.