School concerns? Just be "up front."

Monday September 6, 2010

New backpacks, lunchboxes, and bus routes. School has begun all across the country.

And just as school begins, anxiety arises – on the part of parents, teachers, and kids alike.

The best way to deal with it?

Just be “up front.” Let the teacher know what you’re concerned about, in the nicest way possible.

You’re seeking a partner in the educational process, remember. The last thing you want is for your child to feel he or she is in the midst of an awkward situation. So, set up a good relationship with your child’s teachers.

Here are some pointers:

If you get a call from the teacher – take a deep breath. Don’t jump to any conclusions. Listen, ask questions to make sure you understand the situation, and offer insight into your child that may help the teacher.

If you need to call the teacher – well, much of the same advice applies. First, don’t jump to conclusions about this teacher. The best thing you can do is give the teacher information that will help him or her understand your child. Don’t rationalize your child’s behavior or achievement, but do explain what may be working on him in the classroom, his history in this area, and what has worked in the past.

Then, most important of all – offer to help. Ask what you can do to help your child at home. Then follow through.

One of my sons is a high-achiever and he puts a lot of pressure on himself. When I learned who his teacher was to be, I was concerned because she had a reputation for expecting a lot. I could see my son turning himself inside out to please her, setting his own bar higher every day. I worried that he’d have an anxious year, so I made a little visit.

What did I say? I tried my best to be conciliatory, to build bridges from the very beginning. I kept the whirr of the helicopter blades to a minimum. “Mrs. X,” I said, “Boy #3 is different from his brothers. He puts a lot of pressure on himself to achieve, so you won’t have to push him – he’ll do that himself. He loves to learn, and I hope that’s always the case. I’m just hoping this year will be educational and fun for him. Will you keep an eye on him for me and let me know if you see any signs of anxiety?”

It seemed to work. I also sat my son down and explained to him that his teacher really liked her students to do well, and I was sure he would. I told him I didn’t want him to worry about anything this year – just to do his best. I said, “This grade is a little tougher than last year, so be sure you let me know how you’re feeling about things, okay?” Then I just kept my eyes open for signs of anxiety on his part.

I know not all educators are top-notch, and you may run into problems. Do get involved, but again – build bridges with teachers and administrators. Don’t jump to conclusions but make clear, rational decisions. Don’t make that phone call in the heat of the moment, when you’re emotional. Take a deep breath or two.

So, pave the way to school success, both with the teacher and with your child. Be “up front.” Don’t hover, but show interest and healthy concern.

And remember, school success is measured differently for different children. Don’t expect your child to be like your others or everyone else’s. A good work ethic and a good attitude go a lot further in life than an A in penmanship.

Do you have a tip to help parents through the school year? Something you remember from your days in school or something you’ve experienced as you’ve parented? Share with us!


Diane said...

Great way to word things. I'm going to be having a pep talk with my son today too. :O)

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Such wise advice.
Sometimes mama bears need muzzles, if only to slow things down, to keep calm, to keep the focus on the student--and to keep emotion out. And I'm speaking from both the teacher's and a mama's point of view.
So helpful!

Jennifer Fink said...

Excellent tips, and I really value your input as both a mom AND A teacher!

Victoria said...

Ewww... School years... I don't even want think about it!

We've discussed homeschooling so for the most part I don't worry a whole lot about the school process, but I admit the idea is intimidating when I do entertain the notion of public schooling. Your advice is definitely something I'll keep in mind for when/if the need arises. It would make things a lot easier, I think!

Karen said...

Ahhh, great tips, Laura. We do become like mama bears with our young sometimes, and that does no good.

Julie Gillies said...

Wonderful, balance advice here, Laura. And you are so right--school success--all success is measured differently for different children. I so agree that a good work ethic and good attitude trump grades!

Blessings to you!

Christa said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am marking yours to come back and visit when I have time to spend here!!


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