BY JAMIE LOBER
A new school year brings much anticipation of learning opportunities and friendships on the part of students, families, and even teachers. The National Parent Teacher Association reported that when families are involved in their children’s learning, both at home and at school, their children do better in school.
Open house is a great time to build a positive relationship with your child’s teachers and other parents, as well. You will probably be welcomed in the auditorium or cafeteria and move on to the classrooms. Be sure to grab handouts and keep to the time schedule, as it can be hurried. You will leave with a sense of what the typical school day is like after you have learned about the curriculum, felt the positive energy of the classroom and sneaked a peek at classroom projects. Maybe you can even meet the class pet turtle or hamster. You can expect to find out about the class rules, necessary supplies, upcoming field trips and e-mail accounts to help you stay in touch and involved with your child’s education. Another way to be an active part of your child’s education is by volunteering in class, working at the fall festival, or reading books. Do not miss out on the opportunity to join the PTA or PTO and mark your calendar for meetings and special events. There are committees you can join, and there may even be chances to become an officer. Remember to relax, enjoy, and have fun. Be sure to share the best moments of the open house with your child to set the tone for a great school year.
Unlike the open house, where you will be in a group setting, the purpose of the parent-teacher conference is to focus solely on your child. It is the perfect time to assess how your child is doing and discuss his or her strengths and challenges. As you mark your calendar and prepare for the scheduled conference day, talk about it with your child and let them know that they are not in trouble. Ask them questions, such as what their favorite subject is and who their friends are. It can be a good idea to make a list of questions you want to ask the teacher in advance, so you don’t forget anything. Use this as a time to share about your family and allow the teacher to get to know about your child’s hobbies, pets, or any major life events that might be occurring. Topics you may want to discuss include:
- Concerns academically, socially and behaviorally
- Best way of communicating—whether notes, e-mail or phone
- How you can be supportive at home
Remember that everyone has the shared goal of wanting your child to succeed and be the best that he or she can be. Try to leave with a plan, as well as all of your questions answered. Let the teacher know that you appreciate him or her and that you are available as an advocate and champion for your child. After you have been through both the open house and parent-teacher conference, you should feel assured that you have a roadmap for success to make this school year the best one yet.