There's nothing like the first day of school for both children and parents to become nervous over. Whether it's the first day of school for a kindergartener or the last first day of school for a senior in high school — everyone gets butterflies. Kids are nervous for the course load, the students they're going to meet, and what to expect over the course of their education. Meanwhile, parents are hoping their child makes a good impression and passes with flying colors. Going to school isn't always like those jolly commercials we see on TV. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into it.
When a child becomes a teen, there's not much prepping a parent needs to do for them. They already know the drill and understand what's expected of them (though that's not always the case for a teen who switched schools). For younger kids though, going to school is such a mystery. They're both excited and nervous at the same time. And while parents finally have a few hours a day where their child isn't climbing up their leg every two minutes, they do have one more thing to do before their child goes to school: prepare them.
Thanks to some honest teachers and specialists, here are 20 things parents do to prepare their child for school, but according to teachers, it may be doing the opposite.
According to public forums like Reddit and Quora, there are thousands of teachers who have one pet peeve in common: when parents linger. Yes, letting go of your child for their first day of school seems like a big step in life — and it is. However, hanging around and watching them make their way through their new classroom could be hindering them from letting go. This, of course, doesn't make it easier if you're tearing up or expressing nervous energy around them. This is a big day for them — get them excited! Give them a hug and a kiss, and let them spread their wings as you quickly exit the door.
Aside from the obvious health-endangering instructions, there are a few parents who think they're doing their child's teacher a favor by being prepared, but in actuality, they're being way too instructional. As a professional over at Pure Wow states, “And please don’t provide serving instructions and special requests, like telling us to heat or cut up the food. (Just send it in ready to eat.)" When you think about how many kids a teacher needs to look after, if each other parents dropped them off with these instructions, a teacher would never get anything done!
Most kids have oodles of toys; from books to dolls to race cars... It's a way for them to express themselves creatively. Toys are also special in a way where they can destress a child. Their favorite toys can have a calming effect on them. As long as they have their favorite toy from home with them, they can do anything. Bringing more than one toy to daycare, however, is a crummy idea. As one teacher expressed on Pure Wow, “We know it can be hard to get your child out of the house in the morning. But please resist the urge to let him bring that giant firetruck (and attachable siren...and remote control)." They continue saying that these toys can cause problems in the classroom, not to mention it's now their fault if the toy gets lost.
It's been said more than once that teachers are busy. They don't always have time to meet with each parent one-on-one before the class day. If a parent needs a teacher's attention, schedule a meeting with them or send them an email — it's the easiest way. However, when you have something really important that a teacher should know about, don't rely on your child to relay the message, or set up a meeting too late in the school year. These kinds of warnings need to be said early on from parent to teacher; not student to teacher. Kids may get embarrassed or distracted, leaving them to not tell their teacher about a potential problem.
I'm not sure how most schools go about room assignments nowadays, but when I was in elementary school, children were randomly assigned to make things fair. In the middle of summer, each child was mailed a phone book filled with the numbers and addresses of each classmate. In the back of the book was what class we were in, our teacher's contact information, and the fellow students in our class. There was also a thoughtful note from the principal urging parents not to ask for a transfer.
Just because your child heard the teacher was mean or just wants to be in a class with all their friends, doesn't mean they need to have that wish granted. Requesting a different class so your kid can be with their friends hinders them from making new friends and being independent. Not to mention it's a pain for the school.
Kids can get nervous about the unknown (as can adults). If they've never gone to a class before, they don't know what to expect and they're being away from their parents for the first time. It's easy to try and calm them down, telling them things they want to hear, but this is also getting their hopes up. Don't make unrealistic promises to them. Lying about activities or things they're going to experience can stick with a kid, and when those things don't happen, well, it can cause some trust issues. Tantrums and nervous energy are most likely going to ensue after their expectations are not met.
My best friend is a teacher, and one thing that she finds endearing, yet frustrating, is when a parent tells their child they can call her whenever they need her. Reassuring? Yes. Unrealistic? Kind of. Most elementary-aged children don't have cell phones yet, so if they wanted to call their mom to calm them down, this would require the teacher's help.
A teacher only has so much time to help each child independently, so when more than one child wants to call their mom because they miss them — this can be problematic. Plus, what happens if their mom doesn't answer on the first try, then it's a game of phone tag that didn't need to happen in the first place.
Teachers want the best for their students. They want them to learn, grow, become independent and play. It's hard for a teacher to encourage playtime and creativity when the child can't necessarily do anything that might mess up their clothes.“Every year I remind parents that school is a fun and messy place…and to dress children accordingly," one teacher told Pure Wow. However, not every parent listens to the teacher's request. "Every year somebody sends a kid in wearing a precious, heirloom-worthy cashmere sweater with instructions to keep it clean. If your child comes home looking like a Jackson Pollock painting, try to see it as a sign that they had a really good day.”
It's your job to parent your children and it's a teacher's job to teach your children. If you're a parent, help out both the teachers and children by practicing comprehension lessons before the school year. Teach them your kids to say please, to share nicely with others, to ask questions, and to raise their hands. Teach your children that they must respect their teacher and those around them. Teaching them that they can do and say anything they want only makes the teacher's life harder.
Think of yourself as the home-teacher; prepare them for school by teaching about listening and reading comprehension.
Topics like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the birds and the bees can be quite uncomfortable. Each story is told and believed in differently depending on the household. These are topics that need to be talked about, though. Regardless of your take on each topic, tell your child your house's truth. But don't expect the teacher to lie to your child on your behalf. Kids are going to talk and learn about these things from one another eventually. Asking the teacher to stretch the truth for each child can get tiring, not to mention confusing.
Respect the teacher's job and time, and understand that she can't lie for each child.
She Knows explains that being too prepared is definitely a thing. "Don't make [school] into a HUGE deal. Act cool, be casual," the site notes. Kids are very intuitive and can recognize when their parent is nervous or stressed. Over preparing for the school year can make class seem like a bigger deal than it is. Be relaxed and stay calm. Your child is simply going to school for a few hours to learn more about the world around them. In the grand scheme of things, it's not as intimidating as you're making it out to be. Stay relaxed and your child will, too.
For the next 16+ years, kids are going to most likely go to school then college; they're going to be living by rules and laws for years. It's obvious parents just care too much sometimes, and want their child to be ready, but being too structured can actually have the opposite effect in a kid. She Knows reiterates to let your kid be a kid. Having an education is a privilege, and many kids in North America are lucky enough to receive that privilege. However, when they have the time to play and let loose — allow them to do so.
Praising your child is a phenomenal way to boost their confidence, but is there a thing as overdoing it? You bet. She Knows explains that teachers dislike when parents act like their child can never do anything wrong. Acting like they're these perfect little entities is only hindering them when they finally do mess up in class one day. Your child will be in a for a rude awakening when they realize they can't do whatever they want in class (or in life) and not have any consequences for their actions. It makes every teacher or student out to be the bad guy eventually.
Most parents think they're going to be the "cool" parent of their kids' group. They want their kids to view them as their BFF and hope the teachers only say good things about them behind their backs. Being cool, though, isn't as "cool" as some parents think.
Kari Kampakis, a mommy blogger, explained something that the teachers in her child's private school noticed. "When I asked a priest to name the biggest mistake he sees in parenting, he thought for a moment and then said, 'Parents not being parents. Not stepping up to the plate to do hard things.'" Some parents don't want their kids to view them as the bad guy. Instead of parenting, they end up being their best buddy, and believe it or not, this makes it hard for teachers to do their job. "Seeking to be our child’s BFF can only lead to permissiveness and choices made out of desperation because we [don't want to lose] their approval. That’s not love on our end, that’s need."
As a woman without any kids (for now), my husband and I already have a vision of what our kids would be like. How they would look, the way their voices might sound, the sports they'll be fond of... That's not how life works, though. It's not about what we hope our children will be like, it's about accepting them as they are. Just because our kids like different things than us or are the complete opposite of their parents doesn't mean they're failures. Don't treat them poorly simply because they're not what you had in mind. Be realistic and accept the tiny human in front of you. Accepting them as they are will make them happier and feel accepted, which in turn, helps teachers get the best of them, too.
Preparing your kids for their first day of school is a delicate dance. You don't want to linger but you also don't want to leave too abruptly. As teachers told Quora, parents need to practice pick-ups and drop offs with their child. Sneaking away from your child, thinking they're not going to notice, is only going to make the teacher's life a misery for the next hour or two. Leaving your kid without a proper goodbye could leave them feeling abandoned. Although parents are thinking they're doing what's best for their kid, it's actually making it harder for both kids and teachers to carry on with their day.
Get into a routine before school starts and practice saying goodbye.
Parents are just trying to make sure their kids are okay, confident, and taken care of... That's what parenting is all about! However, what some parents don't realize is sometimes they're doing more harm than good by worrying too much. As the Huffington Post explains, "Some parents build it up to be a big step and on the first day they say things like: ‘You will be okay won’t you?’ which portrays school negatively.” You don't even need to be a kid to recognize this kind of nervous energy. Being asked more than once if we're going to be okay makes it seem like we won't be okay. It has the opposite effect.
Just like having too much structure in a child's schedule can make them feel less like a child (and more like an adult), having them do too many "adult" things can also be problematic. While we all want our kids to be self-sufficient and okay on their own, they still need to have the opportunity to be a kid and live carelessly. Most kids will come home from school with some form of homework, which is important to complete, but their entire night shouldn't be spent with their face buried in a book. They need the chance to be a child — to let loose and play around after a long structured day.
Living in the modern age of iPads, flatscreens, and cell phones, we're constantly being entertained by screens. Can we no longer be satisfied with peace and quiet? She Knows reiterates the importance of limiting a child's screentime in order to prepare for school; something, not every parent listens too since the screen is a pretty great babysitter at times. “The biggest parenting mistake I see parents making with their pre-K kids is allowing them too much screen time,” Kathy Slattengren (Priceless Parenting) notes. “I am concerned that pediatricians, psychologists, and teachers are seeing babies and preschoolers with social, emotional and physical problems related to too much time on screens.”
A teacher told Quora a situation that bothers her time and time again every school year. "I have parents who expect their student to get an A in my class. One parent can't spell a paragraph without 12 [outrageous] typos. Like, misspelling their child's name and my name in ways that aren't understandable out of context." The funny thing is, as this teacher notes, "The parent isn't asking what the child could do to improve. I always give back a list of ways to improve, and it has helped the parent because she works on those with the student."
Knowing how hard school is, and how no one is perfect, parents need to have realistic expectations.