Back To School Edition: Tip #1

 Bus

Hey, I think I saw you in the school supply section yesterday, grabbing the last blue-Mead-100-page-wide-ruled-spiral-notebook off the shelf just as another mom tried to snatch it up. Oh, how school shopping brings out the best in us! Every August, you and I, we stalk the aisles as if we are on a safari, commissioned to find some rare species on the edge of extinction, and every year I think, “For the love of God, school administrators, can’t we just add some money to our already frustrating school fees and order this stuff in bulk?”

Even though I might, maybe, complain just a little bit about school supply shopping, the truth is that I love it as much as I hate it. I enjoy the ritual of it, the anticipation created by a backpack overflowing with sharpened crayons and undefiled paper and fresh markers. Maybe that’s because I always loved school as a kid, or maybe it’s because I crave a routine after the seduction of summer. Maybe it’s because I see the start of the school year as more symbolic of a new beginning than January 1. (Or maybe it’s because I need some alone time. I really, REALLY need some alone time, people.)

Regardless, we all invest quite a bit of time and money into gathering all of the tangible things that our kids need to get off to a good start at school, but sometimes we forget to think about the intangibles that can make a HUGE difference in the quality of our kids’ year. Somewhere between organizing all of the supplies, planning the first-day attire, and grocery shopping to fill the lunchboxes, it might be a good idea to create a mindset for the school year that will help your child to achieve happiness and success. For that reason, I’ll be sending you one tip a day for the next nine days, some things to ponder as we all prepare for the big first day. And if you are TOTALLY OVERWHELMED by nine posts in nine days, please don’t worry. Once school starts, things at my house speed up and the blog will slooooow down! I promise!  I’ll aim for once a week . . . if I’m lucky!

Back to School Tip of the Day #1

If your first impression of your child’s new teacher is negative, keep it to yourself.  I remember one particular meet-the-teacher experience when I was, well, not impressed. The meeting left me expecting a disappointing year for my son, but, fortunately for us, I later discovered that my first impression had been totally wrong. This teacher turned out to be sweet, creative, and very effective in working with my kid.

The truth is that you can’t really tell what a teacher will be like in the classroom after talking to her for five or ten minutes. (Keep in mind that sometimes talking to parents can be just as intimidating for teachers as talking to teachers can be for parents!) You also can’t predict what your experience with a teacher will be like just from talking to other parents, whose opinions are often based on the opinions of ten-year-olds and, at least partly, on gossip.

But here is the most important point: Even if you don’t think you are going to like the teacher, if you want your child to get off to a great start, you need to put on your happy face when talking about school with your child. You can commiserate privately with a friend. You can schedule a conference with that teacher every week. You can make an appointment with the principal if absolutely necessary. But your goal is to foster a good relationship between your child and that teacher, and this will be virtually impossible if you are badmouthing her in front of your kids or openly venting on Facebook. (Everyone knows that Facebook is where we pretend to be happy, anyway, so just default to that social norm in this situation.) And one more thing to consider: Most “problems” are actually just “miscommunications” that can be easily resolved if you aren’t afraid to raise your concerns in a face-to-face conference with the teacher. Try this before erupting like Mount Vesuvius and see what happens.

What if, after a few weeks of school, you still don’t like the teacher?  Check out Tip #2 tomorrow!

photo credit: <a ef=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/57166722@N00/2756087093″>New York</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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