Do you ever wish you could be a fly on the wall in the teachers’ lounge as they prepare for the first day of school? Do you wonder what your child’s teacher wishes you’d do to help your kid succeed? We reached out to teachers to get their back-to-school “wish lists” for parents.
Talk with (not at) your children
Gracie Tedone Manderscheid taught kindergarten for 37 years, including traditional kindergarten and dual immersion (Spanish/English) classes. Manderscheid taught at four different schools in central California, including Sunnyside, Baywood, Pacheco, and C.L. Smith.
Although Manderscheid didn’t expect her pupils to already know their letters and numerals before the first day of kindergarten, she soon realized that many children didn’t even know the “very basics, such as colors or know how to count objects.”
Manderscheid’s wish for parents before every school year is all about communicating.
“What I wished is that parents would do is talk with their child, not talk at them,” she told SheKnows. “Some children only hear command language [from their parents] — ‘Get your shoes, get in the car, go to bed, eat your dinner, etc.'”
Manderscheid points out that it doesn’t take wealth to become involved in meaningful conversations and activities with your children. Spend time in the park or go for a walk and focus on nature, she suggests.
“Looking at insects, birds, flowers, trees and talking about them are excellent ways to engage a child,” added Manderscheid.
And even a simple shopping expedition to a grocery store or Target can turn into an educational lesson for young children, she noted. Encourage your child to count how many red apples you are purchasing, for example.
Get into a routine
School days are all about routine, from morning greetings to recess to lunch to after-school homework activities. Establishing a routine can be challenging when both parents are working, but Manderscheid feels it’s helpful.
“Having a routine at home is also important. Children know what to expect, and it helps them to feel safe. The school day is based on routine,” she emphasized.
When kids are young, daily drills are not “the best way to make them eager learners,” says Manderscheid. Instead, as part of the routine, she recommends parents read to their children.
“Daily reading sessions before bedtime (or a nap for very young children) is the best approach to helping kids become eager learners.”
An elementary teacher for 38 years, Missy Teel has taught students ranging from kindergarten through sixth grade. With a focus on second, third and sixth grade during her years as a teacher, Teel recommends parents teach even the youngest kids basic safety skills.
“Children should know their phone number and address,” Teel tells SheKnows.
And once children learn to read, Teel urges parents to set up summer reading goals.
“The most important thing for me is that students read over the summer. Studies have shown if a child doesn’t read at least six books at their level over the summer, they will decrease their reading level and lose skills from the previous year,” reveals Teel.
For young kids, remember to teach basic skills. For example, “by second grade, the students should be tying their own shoes,” adds Teel.
Talk screen time
Connie McNoble, who taught elementary school for 30 years, is so emphatic about her main point that she urged it be written in all caps (we always obey the teacher): “LIMIT SCREEN TIME!”
Her second point?
“LIMIT SCREEN TIME!”
And her third point? “LIMIT SCREEN TIME!”
As a mom of two and grandmother of six, McNoble tells SheKnows she understands the temptation to use computers, electronic games and televisions as babysitters. But McNoble also urges parents to put limits on how many hours their kids of all ages spend staring at electronic equipment.
“Summer camps offer great opportunities for socialization,” suggests McNoble. From camps for math scholars to science to art, there are a variety of summer opportunities available. Alternatively, McNoble recommends taking your children to cultural options such as museums.
Socialization is important too, and limiting screen time helps your child to interact with his or her peers. But those interactions can sometimes take a dark turn. What can parents do over the summer when it comes to bullying?
“Be a positive role model,” advises McNoble.
For kids in junior high, McNoble recommends talking to them about sensitive topics such as drugs during the summer. Vaping, for example, is popular. McNoble recommends teaching your teen the art of role-playing, taking turns with scenarios such as being urged to vape.
Build your child’s self-esteem
Teresa Goossen has taught first grade for 30 years. Goossen tells SheKnows it’s never too early to start reading to your child.
“Read to your child daily, from birth on,” advises Goossen. “This builds vocabulary, comprehension, a love for reading and your relationship with your child. Make it a fun and loving time.”
To develop your child’s self-esteem this summer and throughout the year, make time each day to enjoy a chat with your daughter or son. In addition to fostering self-esteem, these daily just-you-and-me conversations help your child’s conversational and reasoning skills, says Goossen, who offered the following additional summer tips.
- Practice reading throughout the summer to maintain your child’s skills.
- Play math games in the car (you’ve got a “captive audience” there, she points out).
- Find games that your child enjoys that require math, such as scorekeeping. This helps your child start the new school year feeling more confident.
In addition, whatever the situation, “don’t be afraid to say no to your child,” emphasizes Goossen. “Children need to understand that they can’t always have what they want.”
From a teacher’s perspective, it’s a challenge to get kids to understand that they can’t always have what they want if there are 32 students, and some have never heard a parent say no at home.
Acts of kindness & TMI
Goossen urges parents to teach “manners, kindness and empathy to your child” this summer.
“This is probably the most important,” she adds. “Children who understand this are liked by their peers and grow socially. They will most likely be successful in school and in future jobs. Teachers emphasize these skills constantly, but it all starts at home.”
Manderscheid also urges parents to take time to help their kids learn to get along with others.
“Teaching kindness by example is another way to help children learn how to get along with others,” she shared.
As for what else teachers wish parents would do before school starts, it depends on how much of your life you want revealed at school. Manderscheid recalls several TMI experiences during show-and-tell types of sessions.
“A child shared a photo album and turned to the page where her mom was giving birth to her. My teaching team partner told a student that her mom looked really good. The child announced, “My mom had a breast reduction.”