August 18, 2012
What the School Expects From You
by Alice Wellborn
It’s already time to go back to school! What does the elementary school staff really want from you and your family?
The school really wants your child to be safe and secure in any situation that arises. In elementary school, that includes bathroom accidents, getting sick at school, and skinning knees or breaking an arm on the playground. Sometimes school lets out early because of weather or a power failure, and children are worried about getting home. Many children have medical issues that might have to be addressed during the school day. And sometimes elementary school children just get upset about something that happens at school. So it’s extremely important that the teacher knows exactly who to call (primary and back-up), all the contact information for those folks, and the names of everyone who is allowed to pick up your child from school.
If there is a messy custody issue or legal situation going on, the school cannot protect your child unless the court orders are on file. And if your contact information changes during the school year, please let your child’s teacher know right away. The teacher and the principal have to be able to get in touch with a child’s family at any time. Emergencies happen every day, and children get very upset when parents cannot be reached. You would be surprised how many parents change their phone number or place of employment without notifying the teacher.
Teachers in the primary grades often ask parents to bring a change of clothes to school because little ones have bathroom accidents, spill food and drinks, and get muddy on the playground. Please make sure that you always keep a clean set of extra clothes at school for your child — if he has to change at school, having his own clothes available will make an embarrassing situation a little better.
And while we’re on the topic of clothing, elementary school teachers really appreciate it when parents send children to school in clothing that is appropriate to the weather, comfortable, and appropriate for play at recess and P.E. This includes shoes! It’s hard to participate in P.E. or play with friends on the playground if you’re wearing flip-flops or heels. And remember that your child should be able to independently handle their own clothes in the bathroom. This means that if your child cannot handle buttons or zippers, don’t send them to school in clothes that have to be buttoned or zippered.
Lunch time in elementary school is usually 30 minutes long, and the teachers eat their own lunch while supervising their class in the cafeteria. If your child comes to school with a lunch box, a thermos, and/or packaged food that he can’t open independently, it makes it very difficult to move the class in and out of the cafeteria on time. And if your child comes to school with food that she won’t eat, it can make for a hungry, cranky afternoon. Please send a lunch that your child will eat, packaged in a way that your child can handle independently.
Many parents have complicated lives, and the plans for after school transportation and child care can change from day to day. These inconsistent arrangements can be very difficult for the teacher to keep up with and very stressful for children. Children feel most secure in a predictable environment, which means that they need to know what’s going to happen every day. It’s especially difficult for teachers and children if parents routinely call at the last minute to make changes. Every year mistakes are made and children are sent to the wrong place or put on the wrong bus. That’s scary for everyone! It is very helpful if parents have an established schedule that is the same from week to week. Then the teacher and the child know what’s happening every day and get into a routine. If this is impossible for you, please consider enrolling your child in an after-school program that can provide safe, consistent after-school child care.
The teachers (and the other parents) really appreciate it if you keep your children home when they are sick. I know it can be a real challenge to find child care or take a day off work, but sick children do not learn. What sick children do is spread germs all over the classroom! Please figure out a way to handle it when your child is sick, so everyone else can stay well. So exactly what can parents do to make sure their child is safe and comfortable at school?
-Give the teacher detailed, complete information on how to contact you or another family member, and who has permission to pick up your child. Keep this information updated through out the year.
-If you have legal custody papers, make sure the school has a copy on file in the office.
-Keep a set of clean clothes at school if requested by the teacher.
-Send your child to school in clothes and shoes that allow him to participate fully in all school activities. Make sure that your child can independently handle his own clothing.
-Send your child to school with a lunch that she will eat, packaged in a way that she can handle independently.
-Figure out a safe, reliable, consistent system for after-school care.
-Keep sick children home from school.
If your child has special needs that require accommodations for self-care and other school activities, some of the suggestions above may not apply. In that case, your child’s IEP or 504 plan will spell out the necessary accommodations.
It’s going to be a great school year!
Our very own education specialist Alice Wellborn is now a regular contributor at FlyLady.net and we are thrilled to share her wise words with all of you. Alice is a school psychologist and the author of the amazingly helpful book No More Parents Left Behind. Get the book at:http://www.nomoreparentsleftbehind.com/
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