Summer is winding to an end and it’s time for your child to head back to school. For most families, this means juggling relationships with new teachers, social challenges for kids, and new academic expectations. Luckily, we’ve assembled these tips from the people who have seen it all: teachers and school leaders. Here’s some steps they recommend to ensure you’re equipped to support your child’s success this school year:
- Tap into what they already know. Kids hold a wealth of knowledge even at a young age–families can connect and build on the things they already know. Samia Chery-Geffrard, school leader of KIPP Upper Roseville Academy, says, “From ‘STOP’ signs to local restaurant signs, kiddos are reading everyday. Encourage them to draw or write about their favorite neighborhood places and signs to build those skills. Discovering words in their environment is a great way to start early literacy habits.” The same is true for math skills, she adds. Parents can play “I Spy” numbers games, asking kids to spot everything from street addresses to phone numbers.
- Have a plan. “Create a system of incentives and consequences at home to help support with their choices at school. What can they earn for a good day at school? What do they miss out on for an off day? A consistent plan is key for this to help,” says Brittany Goodman, a principal in residence at KIPP Lanning Square Primary in Camden, New Jersey.
- Give them an outlet. It can help children to have a safe space to process their feelings throughout the year. “Have your child keep a journal. At an early age, they can draw pictures of their days and progress from there. This is a chance for them to reflect on what happened that day and what they want moving forward. It can also serve as a safe outlet to process emotions and clarify goals,” says Goodman.
- A flexible mindset wins the day. Goodman recommends seeking to understand new methods before judging them. “The way we teach math and reading has changed over time, so some of your child’s homework may be unfamiliar,” says Goodman. But don’t dismiss these new methods altogether. “Don’t put down math strategy just because you didn’t learn it that way. Those might be the strategies that make the most sense to your child, and you wouldn’t want to deter them from using something that works,” says Goodman.
- Parents of teenagers: Keep your head in the game! It might be easy to get frustrated with teenagers and stop trying to engage them, but KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy teacher Kristin Proft says that would be a mistake. “Check in with students daily. Even (and especially) when it seems like your teenager is a stranger and doesn’t ever want to talk to you. Teenagers need to feel seen, known, and valued–even if they choose not to respond, or respond negatively,” says Proft.
- It takes a village. Sometimes, parents and teachers might disagree with how a situation should be handled. Lisa Bonnifield, a school leader at KIPP BOLD Academy in Newark, NJ, says, “Kids achieve the most success when families remember that we are all on the same team, working for the benefit of their child. It’s crucial to remember that everyone at the table wants the same thing and may just be approaching the situation differently. Just like mom and dad, teachers and parents must appear to be on the same page in front of kids in order to maintain authority and feel respected. At the end of the day, teachers and families are all giving our blood, sweat, tears, and love to this work because we want what’s best for our kids.”
As always, we are here to support your family this school year. Please reach out to school staff with any questions about school events, homework, or behavior concerns. Happy learning!