We have a school-year tradition at our house. Every night at the dinner table, we go around the table and have each child tell about the best and worst parts of their day. Occasionally, someone will have had a particularly bad day and won’t want to discuss it, and of course, we don’t push it, but most of the time, we get the usual complaints—bad food in the cafeteria, an anxiety-producing class presentation, or an overly strict teacher. Most of the time, it makes for good dinner conversation, and we all end up laughing it off. Every now and then, though, I’ll hear something that raises my eyebrows in curiosity or makes me grimace with concern. Although these are things that no parent really wants to hear, I have to admit that they are the very reasons why we started and continue this tradition.
You see, this is just one of the ways that I maintain the all-important home-to-school connection at our house. This simple practice that takes less than ten minutes a day helps me construct a mental narrative of what my child’s days are like at school. I hear a little here and a little there until I’ve painted a picture of the overall experience. When there’s cause for concern, sometimes I follow up with a teacher or principal, and other times, I just make a mental note to observe the situation. That’s where good old fashioned maternal instincts kick in! Either way, I’m more informed than I would have been had I simply asked, “How was your day?” since as we all know, most kids respond to this question with a shrug and a neutral reply like “fine” or “ok.” The best/worst tradition allows me to open the doors of communication without becoming an interrogator.
Of course, there are many, many other ways to keep track of what’s going on with your child at school. Here are just a few tips you can implement to ensure that you have the finger on the pulse of your child’s school experience.
- Add the teacher(s) to your contact lists. Get their emails and phone numbers and save them to your phone or PC. This makes it easy to get in touch at a moment’s notice if and when an issue arises.
- Reach out. Teachers are busy and they have a lot of kids in their care. That’s why it’s important to reach out to them. Let them know that you’re a partner in your child’s education and that you want to be informed. As a former high school teacher, I can tell you that this simple act goes a long way in the later grades. I had more than a hundred students, and it was nearly impossible to maintain regular communication with all of their parents, but when a parent approached me and expressed an interest, it made an impression.
- Be proactive. Don’t wait until your child is having trouble at school to become involved. It’s a whole lot easier to prevent a problem than solve one.
- Volunteer and chaperone. There’s no better way to get a glimpse into your child’s school day than to actually be there amidst the action. Take every opportunity you can to volunteer in your child’s classroom, at school events, and on field trips. This will have the added benefit of allowing you to form a relationship with your child’s teacher, making it easier to stay abreast of your child’s progress.
One last thing—watch your child’s behavior at home as well. If he or she begins to behave differently or seems depressed, it may be a sign that something’s wrong at school. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the warning signs. Instead, get to the bottom of it by talking to your child and/or the teacher. While he/she may not welcome your involvement now, rest assured that your child will thank you later!