Valley Voices

10 back-to-school tips teachers want us to start following now

Jill Simonian and her kindergartener.
Jill Simonian and her kindergartener.

It’s official. We’re on a countdown to back to school, parents. Already? Yes. Last year, I wrote about a slew of things that kindergarten teachers wished incoming students knew on my blog (check out the one about climbing up the slide), but this year, I’m tackling all grades. Why? Well, our teachers need us to do our due diligence.

Some of the tips you’re about to read are unconventional, but they are important. Vital, in fact. How do I know? I asked a bunch of teachers what they needed from parents and families at the start of the school year, and this is what they offered. Besides the expected suggestion to review last year’s academic basics, consider these requests:

1. Put kids to bed – now. The long days of summer lend themselves to kids staying up late (and they should!), but sleepy kids are lackluster learners in a classroom. Having 25-30 mini-zombies in a room, and being expected to teach them, doesn’t exactly kick the school year off right.

Start a sleep routine two weeks before the first day of school to train our little monsters to fall asleep at decent hours again.

2. Say “no.” Yes, we can say “no” to our kids! Slacking off with rules is natural for vacation time, as I personally love breaking the “only one Popsicle” rule all through summer. However, reminding kids that they must listen to and obey adults (teachers) if and when someone commands, “Please stop that right now,” is paramount to a classroom’s success.

3. Check your wardrobe. Double check the school’s dress code and abide by it – period. Self-expression is an important concept, but so is safety, respect for authority and avoiding a potentially embarrassing situation of your son or daughter being held in the office, away from their classroom, because they’re dressed in something that’s not appropriate. Be appropriate with school clothing. The alternative isn’t worth it, and is just plain irresponsible.

4. Teach your kindergartners to: open their own snack bags, blow their nose into a tissue and throw it away, wipe themselves after using the potty, wash their hands after the potty and not pick their nose.

5. Don’t deviate from supply requests. If a teacher lists that he or she requires “one ream of white, blue-lined paper” from each student, then get that exact description of the item. School-district budget cuts have boxed teachers and administrators into corners, making them dependent on parents to fill in the blanks when state funding can’t cover it – often putting donated supplies into a “pot” for all teachers to share. Sure, the pink-lined paper is cute, but get what they need with no further interpretation.

6. Know your times. This seems silly to mention, but several teachers I asked about this confided how clueless many parents are about schedule (drop off, pick up) on the first day of school. “Not to sound rude, but we don’t have time for those questions. We’re trying to prep a classroom and have tons of meetings with administration to attend. Everything they need to know has been distributed on handouts and emails. Parents need to read those.”

7. Don’t be late. Dropping your kid off late is a disruption to both the classroom and your own child’s confidence.

8. Save your questions. Our job as parents is to drop our children off and pick them up on time during the first chaotic week of school. If you absolutely have an issue that cannot wait, an email sent to the teacher a few days before school is appreciated more than a random fly-by question amid loud kids and parents on the first day of school.

9. Resist informing your child’s teacher about how advanced your kid is and how they require special attention. In the words of a particular veteran teacher, we can all be assured: No child will be bored in the classroom, they promise. (And, if your child is brilliant, they will see it.)

10. Ask your kids about school every day. Being an involved parent is appreciated in the classroom, but being an engaged parent at home does exponential wonders when it comes to children’s performance and confidence at school. Every teacher I talked to identified parent involvement at home as the key motivator and difference between a good learner and a challenged learner.

My point in writing this piece? Make the choice this back-to-school season to give our teachers credit that they actually know what they’re doing and that what they do is measurably difficult every day.

Make the choice to be on our teachers’ teams. They need us more than ever these days – for our kids’ sake.

Jill Simonian was born and raised in Fresno and graduated from Sanger High School. Founder of the lifestyle blog, Jill is a Parenting Lifestyle Expert for CBS Los Angeles and is writing her first book, “The FAB Mom’s Guide”(Spring 2017). Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @jillsimonian.