A few weeks after the start of school, Naomi received a call from her daughter's preschool teacher. Her normally upbeat 3 year old, Jane, was upset and screaming, "I want my mommy!" Naomi suggested that the teacher try singing "This Little Light of Mine" — Jane's favorite song — to help calm her down. When Naomi came to pick up Jane, she was cuddling peacefully on the teacher's lap, listening to the end-of-day story.
This scenario illustrates just one of many opportunities that may arise for building a strong partnership with your child's teacher. By sharing your thoughts, feelings, concerns, and information about your family with the teacher right from the start, you will not only ease the initial transition in September; you will also be creating a support network that lasts all year long. When parents and teachers work together, it sends a strong message: Your child will know that the adults in her life care about her experience and want her to succeed.
Share Your Insight
Many teachers will ask for information about your child and family at the start of the school year, but if yours doesn't, you can take the first step. Avoid trying to have an in-depth conversation about your child at drop-off or pickup time, when the teacher is involved in lots of activity. It will be too distracting for both of you. It's better to write her a letter, or request a brief conference. Follow the teacher's guidelines for the best ways and times to reach her.
Start by thinking about your answers to the questions below; then share them with the teacher so that she can come to understand your child's emotional needs.
- Describe your child's preferences and routines. What do you like to do together? What kinds of activities does he enjoy? What foods does he like to eat? Is he used to taking naps? Where is he in the toilet-training process?
- Offer personality insights. How does she enter new situations? What is most characteristic of her under those circumstances? What are some of the things you find most appealing about your child? Is there any behavior you find difficult to manage?
- Describe previous peer relationships. How does your child relate to other children? What experiences did he have last year? Does he have any particular expectations for school and friendships?
- Explain how your child tends to express her feelings. Does she express anger or frustration verbally? Does she tend to hang back from the group? What are the verbal and nonverbal cues she gives about his feelings? For example, you might say, "Jordan doesn't usually tell us when she's scared, but I see this look on her face and one finger goes into her mouth ..." Let the teacher know what helps to comfort your child when she's upset.
- Share details about your home life. Is there a new baby in the house? Did you move recently? Is there a new family pet, or is Grandpa in the hospital? Changes at home — even small ones — can affect your child, so it helps the teacher to know about them.
- Let the teacher know about your own feelings. Describe what the start of school has been like for you, what you expect from the school, and how you hope it will help your child. When you have this conversation, try not to focus on problems. Your aim is to inspire an open, comfortable dialogue and to begin building a trusting relationship with the teacher. Think of the two of you as a team who, together, can ensure that your child has a fun, exciting, and productive year.