We buy our kids new backpacks and stuff them with paper, pencils, protractors, folders, and lunchboxes all in the hopes of starting the new school year off on the right foot. Although these amenities are nice – an absolute requisite according to excited students – the most important factor is an involved parent. Attending Back-to-School night is a solid way to start. Here are some of the basics you can expect to learn that night.
- Homework, extra credit, and discipline policies. Upper grades (say, fourth grade through eighth) will most likely have a student handbook that includes dress codes, discipline procedures, bell schedules, a place to write down homework assignments, a calendar of events and much more. These are valuable organizing tools for students and a clear-cut way to keep everyone on the same page.
- A copy of the California content standards for your child’s grade level. Some schools even have “kid-friendly’ versions which are much easier to understand. If not, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You may be surprised at what your child is expected to know by the end of the school year.
- A syllabus, or a year-at-a-glance outline. The teacher may write one on the board, so be prepared with paper and pen.
- The best way to communicate with the school, and/or the classroom teacher, i.e., by phone, e-mail, a note from home or just pop in. Be sure to leave your contact information as well. Check the school’s website. Many allow parents to not only view students’ grades and assignments, but also their attendance records and even behavior. If you’re not sure how to access the site, ask your child’s teacher for a quick demonstration.
- Attendance policy. Be aware of reasons for excused and unexcused absences and have a chat with your kids about the importance of being present at school. One missed day of school can mean two days of falling behind. Missing school makes it more difficult for a child to stay on track with assignments, and every day in school is another chance for a child to learn something new. Being present and being on time are habits that serve us for the rest of our lives.
- Volunteer opportunities. If it is at all possible, take advantage of in-class assignments. It’s an effective, non-threatening way to see how your child is managing school and interacting with his peers and teachers. Plus, teachers really appreciate it!
This is by no means a dogma for every school. School environments reflect the community they support and are as unique. Every year policies, procedures, staff, and financial prospects change; which directly influences the daily operation of a school.
Whatever your questions or concerns, you have every right to have them addressed. Don’t be shy. Parents who are positive, informed and engaged in school have children who are the same.
So mark your calendars and enjoy Back-to-School night. Meet and mingle with parents, teachers and administrators. Knowledge is power, however it is obtained.
Contact Margaret Lavin at email@example.com.