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Class lists and more back-to-school dramas

Whoa. The house is so quiet. Why? My daughter is back in school.

This is always a busy time of year as families attempt to adjust to new schedules and expectations. There’s the new routine that includes packing lunches (is a Gold Fish cracker a healthy snack? Hmmm…Don’t think so), getting up earlier (ouch!), making sure our children are doing their homework, brushing their teeth, combing the tangles out of their hair, not putting too much emphasis on outfits, and loading up the backpack with enough time to make it to school on time.

That’s all after the class list drama.

At our school, the list is posted for precisely one hour the day before school starts. You find out who the teacher is and head directly to the teacher’s classroom to meet him or her.

We’re off to a happy start to the school year, but I do wonder why schools can’t let parents and kids know a bit earlier who the teacher and classmates will be. The first day of school produces enough anxiety. Apparently some schools handle this process differently. I ‘d like to hear from parents about how their schools do it.

My daughter – now a mighty fifth grader – did not sleep too well the night before the list was posted in our school’s cafeteria.

I talked about this phenomenon in a recent blog post at EdNews Colorado. One teacher had this to say:

It bothers me a lot when families discount the thought and preparation that we put into preparing for their children…trust us to know what we are doing, please. If there’s an issue you feel needs to be addressed, please empower your CHILD to come to us to address it (you can come with them, of course, but allow them to do the talking unless they’re really little.) We honor that they’re your pride and joy and that you want only the best for them…but please, trust us.

Another teacher said having a not great teacher or classroom environment can actually teach a child valuable lessons about how to cope with adversity. While I agree with that, I wouldn’t want to be stuck in that kind of environment for two years in a row.

Meanwhile, we’re all trying to case out new classrooms and teachers. It’s important to get off on the right foot with your child’s teacher. Whether you’ve already attended your child’s back-to-school classroom orientation (a must in my book), make sure you have a clear idea of academic expectations, what key experiences are planned for the year, and what kind of classroom the teacher will cultivate.  Consider carving out a half hour or more per week to volunteer in your child’s classroom. In my experience, that’s the best way to get a close-up snapshot of how your child is doing in school, including the social dynamics that are so dominant in certain grades.

Check out the tips from one EdNews Parent expert on making the most of these initial interactions with the teacher here.

Here are some key questions you should get answered, according to this literacy staff developer and mom of four:

  • How much homework should we expect?  There are lots of different schools of thought about homework and it’s nice to know that you and your child’s teacher are in the same building. Most people agree that 10 minutes per grade is reasonable. That means 10 minutes for a kindergartener or first-grader, 40 minutes for a fourth-grader, an hour for a sixth-grader and about two hours for a high school student.
  • How will I know my child is growing academically and socially besides report cards and test scores? A grade on a test or report card tells me how my child is doing after the fact. In the education world, we call that “summative assessment,” or a summary of what was learned.  The problem with summative assessments is that if your child is struggling or has gaps in her understanding, waiting for a test or a report card is a little too late to do anything about it. You want to know what kind of evidence of her learning along the way (in education-speak, it’s called “formative assessment”) the teacher will be looking for so she can adjust her instruction when your child needs it most, and so she can practice new skills correctly.
  • How do you help students negotiate the drama with peers both in the classroom and during recess? Use your words.  Know the difference between telling and tattling. You can work it out. Most of our kids are told to work out the social difficulties with little if any guidance in exactly what words to use, what to tell and how to work it out. You want to know that your child’s teacher and any support staff are trained in helping to coach your child and her friends to navigate the social land mines of independent work time and recess. By and large, when your child is engaged in a rigorous, in-depth and practical curriculum, many of the social issues become much easier to address, as she can use many of the skills she is learning to make sense of the social landscape around her.

Read more of this post here. And please share your class list stories, and other back-to-school tips.

EdNews Parent editor Julie Poppen is a former daily newspaper journalist who has covered a multitude of school issues in Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver. She is also the mother of a newly minted fifth grader in Boulder Valley. Read her blog Confessions of a Partially Proficient Parent on the parent page at EdNews Colorado.


Julie Poppen
Author: Julie Poppen

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1 Comment

  1. I try to trust my school and its teachers and staff, but I also feel it is my responsibility to educate myself about the teachers for the following year. My son is in second grade and so far I’ve only requested a teacher once. I believed that teacher would be a better fit for my child. I debated if I should interfere or not and finally asked a dear friend of mine who is a teacher and she reminded me that as a parent I am the only one who can stand up for my child. The bottom line is that teachers and schools are doing their best to serve everyone, and sometimes that means, unless you say something, that may not be what is best for your child.

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