What advice would you offer to parents and families who have children going back to school?
It’s ‘back to school season’ for parents and many will be thinking about uniform and school equipment for the year ahead. After 24 years in teaching and 6 years as a parent, here are my 5 bits of advice for families with children going back to school.
- Please. Make sure your child is eating healthy food. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen students arrive to the school gates with a large bottle of ‘branded energy drinks’ or a tube of Pringles and a family sized pack of Doritos. In every school, these items should be confiscated at the gates, binned so that students stop bringing them in. Support your child’s health and the school’s aim by monitoring what they eat and what they spend your money on. Ask your child questions about their eating habits, daily.
- Make sure your child leaves home with all the necessary equipment for school. There’s nothing worse than a student not having a ‘pen’ for class. Yes, just a pen. Never mind a compass, eraser and a geometry set! Imagine your doctor not being ready to examine you on arrival because ‘you’ve forgotten a urine sample’, or the First Officer on an Easy Jet flight, about to take-off with you and your family on holiday and your son or daughter has misplaced their passport in the departures lounge? “Sorry madam, you and your family will need to disembark the plane.” It’s the same thing. Make ‘being prepared’ a priority and don’t give a teacher a good reason to sanction your child.
- Homework. Whatever your child’s school stance on homework, take an ‘active interest’ in what’s inside your child’s diary and school bag. Two simple and effective communication tools between home and school. Dig through the details and question your child every night as a routine. “What homework do you have today?” Don’t accept “nothing”, a grunt or shrug of the shoulders, or worse, “I’ve done it” for five days a week. Investigate further – even better, ask to see their work – and write short notes to their teachers if you have to.
- Parents’ Evenings. Do all you can to attend. It may be 5 or 20 minutes with a variety of teachers you see once or twice a year, but your child’s teacher sees your child daily and can see a different side to your offspring that you may never see. Small nuggets of insight and information are critical for your child’s development, as well as supporting the school and your child’s self-esteem. If you cannot make the date or time, re-arrange it. I’ve never met a teacher who is not willing to meet with a family.
- Finally a delicate issue. Behaviour. If your child’s school contacts you to say that your son or daughter has been involved in an incident, or has been misbehaving in class, support your school and their decisions. After all, they are qualified professionals who are choosing to work with your child in their school. There’s a recruitment crisis going on and our communities need good teachers working in our schools. For goodness sake, don’t contribute to the problem by putting people off working in challenging situations by giving them ‘an earful’ yourself. Trust their decisions.
I wish you and your child every success this academic year.