Thinking about the new school year already?
Well, we’re in the thick of the summer, Mamas. I hope you’re having fun and checking items off the Summer Bucket List daily! But many of us (parents and kids alike) are already thinking about the upcoming school year. And if you’re like me and have kids like mine, you’re also worrying about how to make the transition to a new classroom and teacher as smooth as possible.
Fear not, Mama. I’ve got you covered.
I’ve got 5 tips and a great downloadable worksheet which will help you introduce yourself and your child to their new teacher. It provides teachers/camp directors/caregivers valuable, recent input and a cheat-sheet they can use instead of wading through a formal IEP they may or may not have access to. Remember, the name of the game is to make it easier for the teacher to interact with you and your child. Take a few minutes to get prepared and you’ll improve the chances for a great experience right from the start of next school year.
While my first two tips are meant to be done at the end of the previous school year, it’s not too late to do them right now! Teachers are coming back to school in August, fresh from their break, but without a new set of kiddos yet. You can still get great input from them if you just ask. Read on to learn how to set your child up for the best transition to a new school year possible!
At the End of the School Year
First, ask the classroom and special education teachers if they will provide a quick note to the principal regarding the type of classroom environment and teaching style they feel would most benefit your child for the next year. Most school administrators try to balance this out for all their students, but a personal note from a staff member never hurts. Refrain from asking them to request specific teachers YOU want – they know their colleagues and your child’s learning style better than you do at this point. Hopefully, this note, coming from staff members instead of you, will steer the classroom assignment decision in the right direction.
Next, take a moment and jot down all the strategies that worked for your child and their teacher. Get the teacher’s input, too, while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind. Fill out the worksheet you can download HERE if you prefer to have a guide to work from. This will give you a resource to pass on to next year’s teacher(s). Don’t just rely on the IEP document to tell your child’s next teacher what she needs to know. We all know IEPs don’t really convey the info a teacher needs for interacting daily with a child. Give examples of your child’s behaviors and triggers, as well as how to stop the behavior from happening, warning signs, and how to deal with it afterward. You should also note any other coping skills your child used in the classroom. These could be using fidgets or a standing desk, chewing gum, taking a walk when needed or if she needs special arrangements for timed tests. These details will be hard to remember in 3 months, so take my word for it and do it now.
Over the Summer Months
My third tip is to make sure your child keeps up with some sort of academics over the summer. Workbooks, educational computer games, reading time, creative play…all these activities help them retain the information they learned last year, which is critical for ALL kids! If your school has summer library hours, take the opportunity to keep your child familiar with the environment. Visit the library and ask if you can just walk the hall where the next grade’s classrooms are grouped. Ask your kiddo about the funniest or best memories they have from last year in the cafeteria/gym/library. Take some time to play on the playground. These activities all keep the environment familiar and will help on the first day of school.
Then, once you find out who their new teacher will be you can swing into action. I’ve always requested to know who the teacher is as soon as final decisions are made, but if your school is like mine, you won’t know much more than a day or two before school starts. If your school has a sneak-peek day, ask to meet the teacher for 30 minutes – either earlier in the day or even right before everyone else shows up – for some non-overwhelming one-on-one time. Especially when my kiddos were younger, meeting the teacher and getting a feel for the classroom in a low-key, calm environment was crucial. After you’ve had a chance to chat with the new teacher, then you can email them the worksheet you downloaded and filled out. You can also ask to set up some time to chat without little ears listening in if you feel it’s necessary.
As the New School Year Starts
Finally, expect there to be bumps in the road as everyone gets used to the new normal. With each new grade, expectations will increase and growth is always a little uncomfortable. Remind your child that any anxiety they’re feeling is not only normal for their peers, but it’s exactly how you felt as a kid, too. Heck, tell them how you STILL feel awkward and unsure and even a bit confused and tired when you start a new job with new people and new rules and a new desk, etc. Ask them if they have any ideas on what they can do to feel better and let them know they can ask you if they need help coming up with a few more to try. The key here is to expect the bumps, know you’ve done everything you can, and support both your child and their new teacher as they work to create a new relationship on the foundation you’ve provided.
I’ve used these five techniques in four different schools across multiple states, grades, and children. If you gather the input and insights while they’re still fresh, do all you can to keep your child in the school-mode over the summer, and insist on a bit of extra time to introduce your child to their new environment and teachers, I believe you can eliminate much of the tension around starting a new school year. You’ll be calmer, knowing you’ve done all you can do, and your kids will pick up on your emotional cues and be calmer as well. Remember, work to support the school in all they’re doing, all while making sure they’re doing everything they should in order to make your child successful!
Just getting started on this whole special needs education journey? Start here…