The First Day of School – A View From the Other Side
It is the first day of school. Desks are in neat rows. Pencils are sharpened. New books line the freshly painted shelves. The class roster is posted on the wall outside the classroom door.
Sharing special needs: As parents escort their children into this new and exciting world, many will want to share information about their sons and daughters before leaving them in the teacher’s care. This is understandable. However, a teacher can easily become overwhelmed when well-meaning parents, dealing with their own concerns, dominate this first morning.
We talked with one young teacher about her first-day-of-school experiences and she reported that last year she had eleven special parental requests before the first hour had passed. She shared the following seven as an example of the wide spectrum of concerns she faces every day.
1. “This is my son, Johnny. Peanut butter gives him seizures.”
2. “This is my daughter, Sarah. She will be riding home with Amber today, Mary tomorrow, and the bus on Friday. But she is never to take the bus on Tuesdays!” (there are three Sarah’s on the class roster).
3. “Hi. I’m late for work. I’ve had to wait ten minutes to talk with you. This is Michael. There is a restraining order against his father. Don’t let him see Michael …”
4. “I’m on my way to California – on business. This is Anthony. His Meme will pick him up today. Buddy will pick him up on Wednesday. He has a kidney problem. Tony, that is. Here are some clean clothes.”
5. “I couldn’t find the kind of paper listed on the supply sheet so I didn’t bring any. Here is a box of tissues. He will only use these. His nose runs a lot. The doctor says that it is not contagious.”
6. “I’m Maggie’s aunt. Her mother is home with a new baby. Maggie has been crying since she woke up. I told her that you will give her a lollipop if she will stop.”
7. “I will not sign the field trip permission slip. You cannot make me.”
Our teacher reports that the seven different pieces of vital information were shared by an increasingly irritable group of parents. The teacher wanted to begin the class in peace. She wanted to introduce herself, reassure each student, and set the tone for the year.
Instead, the teacher was overwhelmed with hurried verbal anecdotes or instructions written on the back of fast food napkins. She had to process multiple references to children with the same first name. And, she had been reprimanded for delaying a parent’s morning schedule.
As you prepare for your child’s first day of school, spare your child’s teacher any undue stress by keeping in mind the following tips:
1. Hire a babysitter. Do not bring younger brothers or sisters on the first day. It is your school-age child’s shining moment. Let him be the star without any distractions or competition.
2. Label everything with your child’s first name, last name, and “nickname.”
3. Plan ahead. When you introduce yourself, be sure everything you share verbally is also in writing (see # 4.)
4. Be a good communicator. Submit EVERYTHING in writing! Write down all vital (and less than vital) information on a full sheet of paper.
If more than one sheet is used, staple them together. Include your child’s full name, address, and all of your contact telephone numbers in case she has any questions. She has already made a file folder with your child’s name on it and will staple this vital information inside it before the day is over. Follow this same procedure for all communication – all year.
Finally, be sure to begin your child’s first day of school with a copy of our story-poem “School Worries.” You may want to bring enough copies for the whole class. Sharing worries and fears is a good way to begin the school year.
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