How to (really) help your child’s teacher this school year

OYSI: Helping Teachers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - We all start the new school year full of promise, excitement and a commitment to doing all we can to help our kids do their best in class, including helping their teachers. But if you think sending an apple or even a cookie to school on the first day is all the help your teachers need - think again.

“Think about the time that you have as a parent, and if you have that kind of time committing to the classroom - volunteering - I think time is No. 1,” says Hall-Kent Elementary School teacher Jerome Isley.

“To have that parent come in means so much. It kind of creates a community in the classroom, so we need that time,” Isley explains. “You can volunteer for the small events in your classroom or even school-wide events.”

We anonymously surveyed several local teachers to ask them what parents can do at the start of school to really help.

*Make sure you spend some time coming to open house or meet-the-teacher night so you know exactly what your child’s teacher expects and how they run their class so you know what to ask your student as the year goes on.

“I would definitely communicate. Day 1, meet the teacher, pull them to the side, ‘We’re excited to be in your class, what can I do?’” Isley advises. “Those are the kinds of questions we can answer really quickly and will be really helpful throughout the year."

*You may even go ahead and get their lunch number so you can practice together at home and avoid first-week issues.

*Make sure your child knows their name. It sounds simple but if they go by a nickname or don’t know their last name it can be a confusing start to school," Isley said.

*Encourage your kids to speak up if they ask for help, especially when starting a new year they may be afraid to ask for help and get left behind unintentionally.

*When it comes to sending supplies, we heard three things over and over: Kleenex, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer.

As for what not to do? Isley says don’t expect a long response to your questions in the middle of the school day.

“You can send an email, but it just needs to be really quick and brief, and say ‘I’d love to talk to you after school or on your next break if you’re available,’ and just talk to them on the phone,” Isley said.

Other suggestions we got from teachers:

*Encouraging notes or emails (Isley says there was a mom this year who had a real gift of encouragement, and frequently the timing was perfect - a tough day when a boost was needed.)

*Supplies that go beyond the basics. Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, Kleenex with lotion for little noses in the winter, fun Band-Aids for minor scrapes.

*In addition to helping with reading skills, checking out library books builds responsibility as well as develops interests in the world. Celebrate the books! And if the books get lost or damaged, contact the Librarian!

*Make sure kindergartners (and all students) are independently opening lunches from home!

*Velcro shoes are a fantastic idea for kindergartners or kids that aren’t yet able to tie shoes!

*Close-toed shoes are the safest choice!

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