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Hartselle Enquirer

Mom’s Corner

Parents walk a fine line with involvement

As always at the start of a new school year, I cannot help but wonder what this school year will hold.  My youngest starts second grade.
I have one junior high student, two high school students, and two college students.   The only thing I really dislike about them getting older is that I’m not as involved in their day-to- day school activities.
Of course, having said that I can also say.  I really would not want to have to be involved in the day-to-day things in high school and college either!
Remember my motto:  A good parent works themselves out of a job!  Seriously, would you really want to have to go to a professor in college and tell them your “baby” needed extra time on an assignment because he or she caught strep?  No, it is your “baby’s” job at that point.
I did send emails for my oldest one semester when she came down with a case of strep that almost hospitalized her, but she was honestly too sick to get out of bed and send the email.  I even offered to take the mostly completed homework assignments to the professors along with a  doctor’s excuse.
However, all of her professors were very understanding and said the assignments could wait until she was back on her feet.  It ended up being almost a week!
For the most part, I stay out of my college kids’ class work.  John and I will help them if they ask, but I do not hang over their shoulder making sure they do the work.  It is their responsibility.  We also have the standing policy that if they fail a college class, they pay to take it again.
For my high school students we have STI.  It is a wonderful program that allows you to go on-line and see how your student is doing.  You are given a user name and a password, then  you can log in and check that your child is turning in assignments and staying on track.
Currently we do not have STI for junior high students.  However, I have found that all of the teachers at the junior high are very helpful and are more than willing to keep you updated on your child’s progress if you ask.
I have found communication with teachers to be easiest through email.  They can read it at their convenience and I can check mine at my convenience.
Although there are times when you really need that face to face conversation.  I think there are some important points to remember about parent – teacher communication.
All the teachers I have worked with want children to succeed and have a great year.  It makes the teacher’s job easier, more enjoyable and rewarding.  Teachers do not want you to have to force your child to come to school because something has gone askew in the classroom.  I  am not talking short term “I hate my teacher for assigning this work.  I don’t want to do this worksheet.”  I am talking difficulties such as being afraid of the teacher or another student,  anxiety issues over what is expected,  or a fear of transitions from classroom work to another activity like music or P. E.
If situations like these occur, it is time for a parent-teacher conference.  Do not just assume that the teacher is aware of what is going on with your child.  Most teachers have 20 plus students in their room and, contrary to what your child may think, I promise you teachers cannot read their students minds.  It may also be that the teacher suspects something, but if your child will not open up to him or her it is hard  for the teacher to discover the nature of the problem.
Remember, you are your child’s best advocate and you still know your child best.  I think it is very important, especially in elementary grades, to stay on top of issues pertaining to how a child feels about school.
I am not saying you should run to the teacher every time there is a little spat between your child and another student.  Teachers would never have any time to get anything done!  Children do need to learn to work out their own differences.  Again if a situation is affecting your child wanting to be at school, it is parent-teacher conference time.
I recommend being specific with the teacher as to why you need a conference.  It will help him or her avoid an ulcer.  It will also give the teacher the opportunity to make some detailed observations, if necessary. Not that he or she is not watchful at all times, but sometimes it helps to know what to look for.
Stating the reason for the conference also helps the teacher know how long to plan the conference.   I equate it with going to the doctor.  It helps the doctor and his staff to have a general idea why you need the appointment.  You wouldn’t expect the doctor to just “know” that your head hurts or you fell and your ankle hurts.  Communication is the key.  I think it is important to prepare for the conference by making a written list of questions or concerns.
It is also important to remain positive.  If you start the conference in a negative confrontational way, it is really hard to fix it.
Remember most conferences are for one or two reasons. 1) Just an update of child’s progress and what areas need improvement.  2) A difficulty has come up academically or behaviorally.   Both of these need to end with problem solving and the ultimate goal of helping your child.  Ask for specific examples of what you can do to help your child.  Also, ask what the teacher is doing or going to do to help the situation.
If your child has developed a fear of the teacher or another student, it is important to track down the root cause or specific incident that created that fear.  I have found often times it is simply a misunderstanding between the students or student and teacher.  Even if you cannot track down the first incident, patience and reassurance from both teachers and parents can overcome many difficulties.
Be assertive, but patient.  Teaching is not an exact science.  I hope these tips help you, your child, and his or her teacher have a great school year.  If you have a question, comment or suggestion, please e-mail me at: moms-corner@juno.com

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