Back to School Wisdom – Setting Goals for Yourself in the New School Year

As you sat with your child and discussed his or her goals for the upcoming school year, it probably did not occur to you that the goals you have for yourself as a parent are equally important, but they are.

What are your goals for this school year? Involve yourself more, or step aside? Either way, here are some ideas to get your year off to a great start.

Your Must Do List: These are nonnegotiable and you must find a way to do the following:

Find out the name of your child’s homeroom teacher, and introduce yourself via email. Teachers today, tend to prefer email communication, as telephone calls are difficult to answer in a timely manner. It can be difficult with so many vying for his or her time outside the classroom door, a short email will do to open the door to communication.

Show up for back to school night. Generally set aside as a child-free evening, this is the night your child’s teacher will share his or her teaching goals for the year. Make sure you are aware of the date, and do what you need to, to get a babysitter. Many parents share the sitter that night, and some schools even offer on campus babysitting. Either way, there is rarely a good enough excuse not to attend. Please try to ensure both parents attend. Dad is equally vital to the foundation of your children’s education. This is one night at school that he should be present and learn first hand the goals of your child’s teacher!

If the teacher sends home paper work or questionnaires for you to fill out, do them immediately and without delay. You honestly can’t expect your child to turn in assignments on time, if you don’t.

Fall conferences are a top priority. This is time set aside for you to have a one on one chat with the teacher. GO! Even if your child is top of the class in your eyes, an educators point of view is essential. The older the child gets, the less likely these conferences are to occur. However,if they are offered at the middle and high schools, by all means GO!

Return email or phone calls. Seems straightforward enough, but I hear from educators all of the time, that they reached out to a parent, and the parent never returned the call. Assume their call is critical, and make it a top priority.

Don’t assume the Principal knows who you are, or who your child is. Take a moment to introduce yourself. Same goes for the front office staff. Please don’t make the first time they hear your name is because you want to complain! Balance is key.

Your Optional List:

YOUR CHILD’S HOMEWORK. I know quite a few parents who give in too quickly to their child’s whining about homework, and end up late at night completing the task. If your child is over-scheduled after school, taper the activities to release the stress. Ten minutes of work per grade level will not kill them. The work is assigned to them, not you. Please do not feel the need to do their deluxe solar system project for them. The teacher is on to this, and can actually tell the difference between adult work and child’s work, and may just mark you down! Let your child shine all on his own, and be satisfied even when the work appears as if a fifth grader did it. Oh that’s right! A fifth grader did make it, and it is 100 percent advantageous for them to own the success! If the work is too much or out of control with regards to time, contact your child’s teacher STAT! Your child may be misinforming you as to expectations. Better to open the lines of communication sooner, rather than later. Homework really is suited to the grade level, and unless a parent speaks up, a teacher does not know that some may struggle.

FUND RAISING. If it is not on your to do list to sell a magazine, or candy bar, or scented candles to boost your child’s school, then by all means DON’T !

“What is that you say? I don’t have to fund raise?” Actually you don’t have to fundraise per say. Want to take a devilishly smart way around this? Let’s say ABC Elementary is holding an annual wrapping paper drive, and they want every child to sell 100.00 in products as their combined goal. You have three children enrolled, which would require THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS in product, and only $150.00 in net profit to the school. Puhleeze! Who has time for this, and how many times can you approach your friends, co-workers, neighbors, and doctors office ?

A different approach may be to consider that the group only benefits up to forty- fifty percent in earnings of goods sold. In order for you to walk away guilt free, write a check for anywhere between $50.00 – $150.00 and be done with it. You did your part. Nowhere is it written that you HAVE to sell product. It is just one way to raise money. Cold hard cash contribution is another! And because a check is usually tax deductible, instead of hitting up grandma to buy more wrapping paper, why not ask her for a donation? Everyone wins.

What if you join, and you don’t have a voice? This writer ran a PTA for two years as President and fell in love with the program, the structure, the by-laws, Robert’s rules,and guidelines. Everyone that showed up, and was a member had a voice and a vote. Awesome!

Later, my family moved to a community with mostly PTO’s. Governed strictly at the site level, and with no oversight by districts, states, or a national level like the PTA, cliques were formed, and only the board voted, and only the board members had a voice. I value my time, and I was not going to sit and watch a group of six to twelve make all of the decisions for my child’s school, while I am a paying member with no influence.

So this year, I am bowing out. Yes, it is true. I am not joining until things change. And if they do not change, that is acceptable as I did not join and I don’t actually have a say. My stress level remains on an even keel when they don’t do things I think they should like showing budgets, or meeting minutes, etc…

I do, however, believe strongly in the structure of a PTA and have maintained my national membership.

CLASSROOM VOLUNTEER: For years and years, teachers got by with no classroom volunteer and even larger classroom sizes. They survived. Since my oldest began school in the early nineties, I have watched this parenting style grow almost to the high- school level. Helicopter parents are always vying for top dog in the classroom and are judging the parents who do not offer their time to hang stuff from the ceiling, or worse yet, grade papers (that last one makes me steaming mad, as that is unquestionably the educators job, and infringes on your child’s right to privacy). What if you work full time? What if the classroom is not your thing as you want your children to function without you ever present?

You do not have to be in your child’s classroom every minute of every day to be an asset to your school. There are many ways to volunteer. Make copies, support the office, volunteer in the library, help with Saturday beautification days. You can provide paper supplies, or perhaps visit a day to share what you do at work with an age-appropriate level. Have the arts been cut due to budget restraints, and you can dance, paint, or teach music? Throw your name into the volunteer hat!

I have always held the belief that being in your child’s classroom is not actually volunteering. IT IS YOUR KID! But what if you are a nurse, and it is career day for fifth graders, and your son is in first grade. By all means, step up to the plate and volunteer for the fifth grade. Your first grader will be so proud, and you just earned yourself some “cool” points from the kids in the fifth grade!

Set your sites on being a true volunteer, and see where the school or district needs you! Commit to some hours of service!

At the end of the day, it is what is best for your family that counts. People gossip no matter what. Those that are always gossiping about how much they do for the school, obviously have other issues and they are not yours. Know your child, and know your child’s school community. Stand firm in what is right for you and the rest will fall into place!

Happy Parenting!

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