2003-10-03 / Community

Tips From Bank Street College On Starting School

by Rena Rice, Bank Street College of Education and co-chair, PRYSE Early Childhood Committee
Tips From Bank Street College On Starting School by Rena Rice, Bank Street College of Education and co-chair, PRYSE Early Childhood Committee

PRYSE (Project for Rockaway Youth in Safety and Education) is committed to helping families understand and navigate the public school system, especially in view of all the recent changes. Research shows that family involvement, which can take many forms, is a strong predictor of school success. The start of the school year is the best time for parents to begin establishing a positive relationship with their child’s teacher. PRYSE and Bank Street College of Education offer these tips for parents:

Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher. Tell the teacher that you and your child look forward to working with her this year, and invite the teacher to call you if she has any questions or concerns about your child. Teachers appreciate parents who open up the lines of communication.

There have been many changes in the public schools system this year – more than in the past hundred years. Each school now has a Parent Coordinator to keep parents informed and serve as a liaison between parents and the administration. Find the Parent Coordinator of your child’s school, and ask what information is available. If you have an issue with your child’s teacher, it is best to address it directly with her, but the Parent Coordinator is also there to advocate for you.

A booklet describing the changes in schools was recently included in major newspapers last. If you didn’t get one, ask the Parent Coordinator for a copy.

Get a copy of the school calendar so you can prepare for holidays, half-days, and special events. Being aware of test dates is also important, as many children feel more stressed before and during tests.

Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit, comfortable place to do homework. Find out what the teacher’s expectations for you are, regarding homework. Does she want you to check it? What kind of help should you provide? Phone the teacher or send a note if homework is causing stress for you or your child.

Talk to your child about school – what subjects he likes best, who her friends are. Taking an interest shows the child that you believe school is important, which helps the child take school more seriously.

READ to your child daily. Research shows that reading books to children is the best thing parents can do to help their child learn to read and to be proficient readers.

Establishing a bedtime ritual of reading to your child supports both intellectual and emotional development.

Let the teacher know if there are any major life changes in the family, such as a new baby, a move, a parent away on a trip, serious illness, etc. These events may affect the child’s behavior and performance in school. The teacher will be more sympathetic and better able to help your child if she knows the reason behind the change.

If your child complains about the teacher, or the other kids, explore it with your child so that you understand the situation. Speak with the teacher and discuss your child’s concerns. Remember, though, that adjusting to a new teacher and new group of classmates may take time, so some issues in the beginning of school may resolve themselves after an adjustment period.

Join the PTA and attend meetings. This will keep you informed about what’s going on school-wide.

Last but not least, let the teacher know that you wish to be involved. If your work, classes, or child care prevent you from being present during the day to volunteer at the school or accompany the class on trips, ask the teacher what you can do at home to help the class. Some ideas are working on a class newsletter, sending in items requested by the teacher, or making costumes for a school play. And remember, getting the child to school on time; setting up a place for homework; communicating with the teacher by phone, note, or email; and talking to the child about school, are all important aspects of family involvement that do not require your physical presence at the school.

If you have any questions about school, your child, or other family issues, you can call the Addabbo/PRYSE Community Resource Center at 718-327-8306.

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