The school year is coming to a close. I feel like I was just packing new backpacks and taking special before-school pictures, and now we are doing field day and end of school parties. But before we leave school buses behind for summer camps and swimming and every story time at every library within 30 miles (just me?), let's not let the school year slide away just yet. There is something very important to do before it's over.
By now, your child's teacher is a treasure trove of information. Her teacher knows how she learns best, that she is grumpy in the mornings, exactly what kind of word problems are a struggle, her favorite things to read about and probably plenty of information about your family, too (kids overshare with teachers- be careful what you say within earshot).
In a few weeks all of this hard-earned knowledge will vanish, poof. Sure, you will have a report card, but those don't usually detail all the things you might really want to know. And while schools often have a process to communicate information from one year's teacher to the next, parents are rarely privy to this knowledge.
Here are a few questions you should consider asking before the last relay race is run and the yearbooks have been signed.
1. What should my child practice over the summer?
Every teacher is going to encourage you to have your child read over the summer. And many schools have formal summer reading and math programs. This is all good information, and you should use it, but what you REALLY want to know is if there is something SPECIFIC that your child needs extra time to master. This is especially important for skills like handwriting or math fact fluency that can take a long time to develop, and serve as the foundation for further learning.
If you are going to make time to fit in something academic, in addition to reading and standard school programs, you should ensure you are spending your time and efforts wisely.
2. What social or emotional skills should we be working on?
Social and emotional skills are the relationship, goal-setting, empathy, self-regulation, decision-making skills that are critical to success in school and in life. In many ways social and emotional skills are more important that any one piece of academic content. If my child has her multiplication tables memorized but doesn't have any friends, then I am going to be a lot more concerned about the latter.
So if you want to REALLY know how your child is doing, in a social/emotional sense, ask a leading question. My friend's situation illustrates this perfectly. She wanted to know if her "bossy" (her word) daughter was being nice to others or bullying them into following her lead. She asked the teacher, who tried to reframe the word "bossy" in terms of leadership and initiative. Smart move, teach. But she also told my friend what she wanted to know- yes, she was "leading" but not coercing or bullying other children.
So you might try: "I know my son had been doing x sometimes, is that still going on?" or "my daughter does x with us at home, do you ever see that at school?" The teacher might tell you no- kids often behave differently at school. But if there is something to work on, you can be mindful of it over the summer.
3. What would you like next year's teacher to know about my child?
This question is especially important if your child is changing schools. But it might yield valuable information regardless. Maybe you will learn something that you can pass along to a summer caregiver or swim teacher. Maybe not. But it can't hurt to ask.
Do you have any other questions as school wraps up? Let me know in the comments.
And if you have ANY education questions, ask the teacher.