Tips for a Great New School Year: Work with Your Child’s Teacher

Between the stacks of sheets to sign and return and the back-to-school night presentations, all the new school year information can become overwhelming. But get beyond the dress codes, hot lunch orders, and school supply lists and you can find valuable information about how to forge a great working relationship with your child’s teacher—open lines of communication can have a positive impact on your child’s school year.  


Preferred Method of Communication

Communication between the teacher, student, and parent is essential for success. An important detail to know is how your child’s teacher prefers to communicate—email, phone, notes, or text—or all of the above? Questions will invariably arise regarding an assignment or an issue in the classroom and it’s necessary to know how to reach the teacher and vice versa.


Classroom Volunteer Opportunities

Your child’s teacher most likely has several opportunities for parent volunteer hours. These may include helping with in-class assignments or special occasions. When during school hours helping is not possible, ask for tasks you can help with after hours, such as grading papers, ordering books, or helping set up the class website. If your schedule allows, take advantage of these opportunities—they give you a first-hand perspective of the the classroom beyond your child’s experience. Donating time to the classroom communicates to the teacher, and your child, how much you value their work.


Homework Expectations

Review the Back-to-School night paperwork for important information about the teacher’s plan for homework. Become familiar with the system for homework assignments. Know where homework assignments can be found and how often new assignments will be given. For example, some teachers send home a packet on Monday with a Friday deadline. Find out how much time the teacher expects your child to spend on homework each night. Preparing your family schedule for nightly or weekly assignments can make a big difference.


If it is not included in the information, find out what the teacher expects your role to be in homework. Are you expected to correct your child’s work? What about spelling? Would the teacher like feedback when an assignment took a lot of discussion to get going?


When you are on the same page as the teacher, you are better prepared to help your child with homework. And when you do help, try using language that encourages them to visualise. Starting with the assignment itself—ask them if they have a clear picture of what is due when. What does that look like? Do they have an image for what the task is? And when your child is reading about a new topic, ask questions that stimulate imagery like, “what does that word make you picture?”


The imagery-language connection is necessary for understanding and following directions, both key elements for success in the classroom.


Instruction Goals

Learn the teacher’s instructional goals for your child’s class this year. If possible, find out the general content and skill expectations for reading, comprehension, writing, and maths. For example, in maths, find out if your child will be just learning the concept of multiplication or if they will be responsible for knowing maths facts.


Knowing this information is helpful in order to gauge your child’s progress throughout the year. If she starts to struggle, you will know early enough to get in communication with the teacher and prevent her from falling behind.


Keep Asking Questions

Your good example of communicating clearly and often with your child’s teacher can rub off on your child, too. Successful students ask questions if they aren’t sure what they are supposed to do or what is expected of them. Remind your child that it is always okay to clarify directions or check for understanding with their teacher. It’s better to ask a question and fully understand than it is to guess and complete work incorrectly.


However, if you notice your child continues to struggle with understanding even after talking with his teacher, there could be a comprehension weakness interfering with his understanding.


We hope these back-to-school tips help your child have a great year. However, if you notice your child struggling while working on homework or following assignment directions, contact your local learning centre about how we can help.


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