Milestones in your child's life are often bittersweet. While, yes, you are excited for them to be potty-trained or sleep in a big-kid bed, there's the heart-wrenching knowledge that they are growing up. For most parents, the first day of a new school year in particular is one of these moments. Consequently, the first day can often be harder for the parent than the child.
As a parent, I get that the sending your beloved baby off to school can be hard. As a former teacher, I can tell you some doozies about parents behaving badly. If you want what's best for your child on their first day of school, no matter what grade they're going into, these rules will ensure that everyone has their best day possible.
1. Pack a lunch.
All right, this may sound obvious, but it's really important that a student comes to school with an adequate amount of healthy and delicious foods. Stuffing a child's backpack with Takis and yogurt doesn't really count as packing a lunch. Children who are hungry will have difficulty concentrating and completing the difficult task of being a student. Almost as important as avoiding junk food is having your child help in the preparation and packing of their lunchbox. Yeah, it's cute and goes viral when a senior in high school doesn't know how to peel an orange, but it's also a little sad.
2. Talk to them about expectations.
I know that to us adults, school seems like a no-brainer. Students are expected to go to class, play with others, and learn new stuff every day. However, to young minds, it's not that easy. For a lot of children, this might be the first time they're expected to listen to a stranger, and that can be difficult. It's important children know that they are being expected to wait their turn, listen to others, and work hard, because if they don't hear it from their parents first, they're not likely to listen to their teacher tell them that later.
3. Don't be absent or tardy.
The fact that I even have to mention this is a little ridiculous. I've had students that I didn't meet until the second week of school because their parents decided "nothing really happens then anyway, so we can go on vacation." While I'll admit the academic rigor might not be as stringent as later on, the first day of school is incredibly important. The first day introduces students to expectations, their classmates, and their teachers and is an integral part of building a culture of comfort and trust. Imagine walking into a party where everyone knows each other and they silently stare at you when you come in. That feeling of "otherness" is what gets created when children miss the first day of school or show up dramatically late. Don't put that on your kid.
4. Do not linger.
Your child's school probably has a policy about how and where children are dropped off. No matter whether or not you're walking them to the classroom or dropping them off at the front steps, do not linger. I've had parents sit for hours in my classroom because they wanted to make sure their child was comfortable. That intense level of lingering does far more harm than it does good. It undermines the teacher's authority, makes all of the children feel uneasy and distracted, and means that the teacher can not do the genuine work of setting up an authentic and positive classroom environment because everyone is focused on your presence.
5. Do not expect to have any serious conversations with the teacher before or after school.
When you walk into the classroom and see the teacher writing on the board, stacking papers, or talking with one of his new students, please do not try to tell him everything about your child. No matter how prepared a teacher is, the beginning of class can be a bit of a stress ball. I have no problems meeting parents on the first day, just please be mindful of the time. Introduce yourself, hand your card over or a note, and let them know you'd like to talk in the next couple days about your kid. Similarly, at the end of the day, do not, under no certain terms, barge into the classroom as soon as the bell rings to talk about how everything went. Besides annoying the teacher, you're probably not going to get a genuine answer, just one that gets you out of there.
6. Ask for one high and low.
I'm a huge believer in being reflective. Some children hate talking about their day, and others, you can't get them to stop. By asking all children to identify one high and one low for the day, everyone benefits. Parents of the talkative child can get to what's important, and parents of the quiet child give them a manageable task toward opening up. This also lets parents identify problems long before they become huge issues.