Does each new school new year make you a little nervous? How will my child do in school this year? Will they have a good teacher? Today, Sandy Cooper from The Scoop on Balance shares with us 8 Steps to a Great Start with your Child’s Teacher. She will show you how with prayer and the right perspective you, your child and their teacher can have a great start to this school year.
This school year, I will have a 5th grader, a 10th grader, and a college freshman–maybe. I say “maybe” because the college freshman announced to me on her last day of high school that she has decided to take a “gap year.” This, of course, was a complete surprise to her father and me. We already have college acceptance, dorm and roommate assignments, course schedules, and academic scholarships firmly in place.
With emerging adults, you take it day-by-day, y’all.
Anyway, if you add all my children together, I’ve led my children through 38 successful “first days of school” ranging from kindergarten to senior year of high school. While overall, we’ve had a very positive school experiences, some years have been better than others. Some teachers were a good fit. Some, not-so-much. But every year, I’ve had full confidence that my kids, their teachers, and their parents (!) would survive, last minute “gap year” decisions notwithstanding.
How do I pull that off?
- Every year, I pray that God will direct our steps as a family regarding school choice. My kids have attended the same private Christian school since day one. I love the school we’ve chosen for our kids, but I’m open to other options. I realize God’s plan may include public schools, a different private school, or home school. Prior to my middle child starting high school, we shadowed several other schools looking for a better fit. Each year, before re-enrollment, I trust God to give us that familiar “gut” feeling, should we need to consider these options.
- Long before our school determines teacher/student assignments, I’m praying about teacher/student assignments. I pray for the school staff to hear God’s voice and follow His leading, even if they don’t recognize it as such. I pray God would place my kid smack-dab in the middle of the class where he or she will thrive. I truly trust God has answered my prayer and He’s got our best interest in mind, even if the teacher assignment isn’t what I hoped or expected.
- I prepare my kids for the school year by telling them I’ve prayed. I assure them God’s got their back—because He does. I may sometimes forget about their summer reading until two weeks before school starts, but I do remember to tell them God’s got their back.
- I approach each teacher enthusiastically and warmly. I introduce myself. I respond promptly to e-mails. I sign up to volunteer in the class as often as I can. I let the teacher know how excited we are for the upcoming year. I tell her we believe our child is in the perfect place—in this school, in her class. This communicates to her, “I believe you can do this and I support you.”
- I let my kids start out with a clean slate. Some struggles arise simply because of the teacher/student dynamic. When my child matures or he is paired with a new teacher, many of last year’s struggles become history. Why put a negative image into the teacher’s head concerning my child and create a self-fulfilling prophecy? Struggled with math last year? Doesn’t matter. Had a difficult time getting class work completed? It’s a new day. A bit chatty in class? Let’s have a fresh start. I refuse to allow my kids to enter the new school year with a negative label, but rather allow the teacher to discover my child’s strengths and weaknesses on her own. And that goes both ways—I refuse to let my older students corrupt my younger students with horror stories about their teachers. I allow my younger students to enter the school year with only positive information about their new teachers.
- If my child struggles afresh, I keep the lines of communication WIDE OPEN. I offer information concerning my child’s temperament and I approach the teacher with probable solutions. I e-mail and meet with teachers on a regular basis. One year, my son had a terrible time completing his class work, which made it difficult for the teacher to move through her lessons at a reasonable pace. The teacher’s solution was to make my son (who has since been diagnosed with ADHD) sit on a bench doing school work during recess. Then she sent uncompleted work home as additional homework. This gave my child absolutely no break from school work. Every night, there were tears and frustration—for hours. My son cried, too (ha!). It was terrible. I knew the teacher was doing the best she could, managing a classroom full of squirmy kids. But I also knew she was cutting her own throat and making matters worse for my son with this approach. My little boy couldn’t complete his work because he had a hard time sitting still and staying focused for so long—the last thing he needed was to be working through recess! What’s more, I knew he responded better to positive incentives than he did to threats of punishment. So, I went to the parent/teacher conference armed with tried and true suggestions to motivate my child—which included recess and a sticker chart. She implemented my suggestions and he finished that year with all As and Bs, and fewer tears.
- I don’t rescue my child from every difficult teacher or class. One year, my straight-A middle school daughter was failing math. She came home every night in tears and spent no less than two hours trying to understand her math homework. She begged us to let her switch classes, change schools, move to a new state—anything to ease the burden of this math class. My husband and I met with the teacher eyeball-to-eyeball, and after feeling out the situation, decided to let her ride out the year in the same class. Sure, we could have moved her. The school offered that option. But instead, my daughter learned a bit about dealing with difficult circumstances—a skill that will serve her well her entire life. Dad became “Math Guy,” which deepened the father/daughter bond. And my daughter learned that she’s a lot tougher than she thought she was. She didn’t finish with an A, but instead with valuable life-lessons and a deeper relationship with her father.
- I remember that they (the teachers and the school) work for me. In a literal sense: I pay a lot of money to send my kids to private schools. But also, in a figurative sense: Even if I chose public schools, I see the school as an extension of my home, not the other way around. I am the one who will stand before God and give an account as to how I raised these children. It is my job to surround them with people who will teach them what I can’t—lessons and skills they need so they can grow and be what God created them to be. When I view it that way, I feel empowered by God to make good choices. I am not a victim of a difficult teacher or an incompetent staff member. I am a Spirit-filled believer who hears and obeys God’s voice for my family. And, therefore, I trust Him completely that He’s leading us into His perfect will.
With prayer, patience, and the right perspective, you can have a great start to your child’s school.
What tips do you have for starting your child’s school year right?