Parent checklist: 8 tips on how to be teacher’s pet
Impress your child’s teacher by keeping things nice and simple
Being able to do minor things like putting on their coats with little fuss are hugely important in the daily life of infants. Photograph: iStock
Whether it’s your first child starting school, or you’re a seasoned parent coming out of the school run hibernation, behind every booklist, checklist and freshly ironed uniform lays a teacher in waiting.
Waiting for a brand new classroom, soon to be filled with new names, faces, interests, personalities, likes and dislikes and, of course, new parents.
So while you are preparing your child and they are preparing for teacher, rest assured, teacher is preparing for you.
This is both a good thing and a bad thing, depending on how teacher-conscious you are.
Below are simple, understated tips parents can ponder and, if followed, will no doubt see you graduate into a fully fledged teacher’s pet.
1 If you like it, then you should have put a name on it
By the end of September, there will be a countless number of abandoned geansaí left at schools, much to the frustration of teachers across Ireland.
While ‘Cé leis é?’ is a cute phrase we all look back on fondly from school, too much time is spent investigating and returning property to the right children. It could easily be timetabled as a subject in itself, everyday.
If there was just one piece of advice I would give parents, that would impress teachers beyond any other, it is to label everything.
From permanent marker, labels stitched in, stickers or even initials, anything that can help prevent teachers deciding from gut instinct which property belongs to which child, and ultimately getting it wrong in the end.
Save yourself money in replacing misplaced clothes, books, stationery, toys and, most importantly, your teacher’s patience, by putting a name on it.
2 First time school goers? Simple is simply the best
Infant parents, nothing will earn you more brownie points with your new teacher than keeping things as simple as possible, for as long as possible.
Independence is a strange thing to emphasise, given that up until now this little person has been so dependent on you for so long. But time to cut the cord and realise infants are not as helpless as we like to think, given the proper planning.
Your first port of call is making sure your child can put on and take off their coat and shoes independently. There will be ample time throughout their career in school for fashion statements, but at the very beginning, understated is key.
Choose Velcro instead of laces, and zips and elastics instead of buttons. Being able to do these minor things with little fuss are hugely important in the daily life of an infant.
And it sounds petty, but imagine a disorderly queue every break and every lunch time, every single day, forming at teacher’s desk. Thirty coats waiting to be untangled, and then re-tangled, and then individually buttoned. It’s avoidable, so avoid it.
3 Some food for thought
Remembering that simple is best, choose a lunch box and drinker that your child can open unaided.
Nothing adds more drama to break-time than a hungry infant wanting to play, but is stuck inside trying to dismantle a box.
If you’re packing food that needs peeling, such as oranges or bananas, it’s best to do this earlier that morning.
“He won’t eat his lunch” is a problem for which parents think teachers have a solution. We don’t. As a parent, your best play is to look at the food itself. Pick things your child can recognise, is familiar with and enjoys at home.
Children sometimes swap food on break, so it’s important to remember healthy eating policies are not just drafted for the fun of it. Remember, certain foods are banned for important reasons, such as allergies.
If the classroom has a carpet area, avoid yoghurt drinks or tubs that can easily spill. Spilt food is a gift that keeps on giving long after teacher has fumigated the room, and is one sure way of ending up on the parent naughty list.
And, lastly, remember to empty an infant’s school bag every day, but especially on Fridays – to read notes, save work, but also to avoid nasty surprises. You’ll thank me come Monday morning.
4 Homework horrors – teachers are not mind-readers
No matter how seasoned a parent you are, with each year that passes comes more homework, and maths problems that become more complicated each week.
Inevitably you’ll someday find yourself pitted against either your child or their teacher for no reason other than a breakdown in communication.
Like any teacher’s pet should do, highlight concerns you have with homework as early as possible. Schools develop their own homework policies, but like all learners, there is “no size fits all” approach that works for everyone.
Is homework becoming a battlefield every single evening? Taking too long? Too difficult, or easy? Then that homework no longer serves a purpose.
Do not wait until a parent-teacher meeting to address this. Homework is meant to involve you in the conversation of what your child is learning, not to catch anyone out.
6 Children with additional learning needs are not gossip
With more and more children with additional learning needs entering mainstream classrooms, there may be special needs assistants, learning support or resource teachers working in your child’s classroom everyday.
Regardless of the age group, this is not an invitation to ask teacher why they’re there or who needs their help most.
It’s also very common for auxiliary staff to take students out in small groups, at any age or time, to do small group work in English or maths, or team-building games and more.
Many parents panic when they hear their child was taken out for work, and immediately arrive at teacher’s door, petrified that more attention equates to something really bad they weren’t told about.
Often it’s just that on extremely rare occasions, schools have spare staff to make a bigger impact.
7 Speaking of classroom doors
If you want to talk to the teacher, it is best practice to book an appointment. Your new teacher will be more than happy to discuss anything with you, so long as it doesn’t take them away from, you know, teaching children.
Give them an idea of the topic, so they can best prepare for talking to you. Landing at the door unannounced doesn’t give anyone an opportunity to figure out what it is they want to say.
It’s not productive for you, for the teacher, and certainly not a room full of children waiting to be instructed by a now distracted teacher.
8 Online activity and the ‘fear of missing out’
Antisocial online behaviour and online bullying are just two of a myriad of problems stemming more and more from the internet, and arriving at the classroom door.
The problem intensifies when teachers encourage safe, responsible online activity, but their advice is being contradicted at home. It’s not a good precedent to set at the start of the school year.
“But all his friends are on it, I don’t want him to feel left out,” is not a good enough reason to turning a blind eye to the appropriateness of games, apps and websites.
And often times once parents tease out each other’s feelings of the internet, they come to the conclusion that everyone just wants the same thing, child safety. But having a consistent voice, especially for children regarding their peers, is important.
Simply saying no doesn’t really cut it any more. Children expect to be included in the conversation.
Communicating the reason behind decisions can debunk that fear of missing out which children often use as a reason for joining the apps and sites in the first place. “You’re not missing out, because we as parents agreed on this” is a better approach than just being told no.
It’s a united consensus by parents around online activity that every teacher would be very grateful for, and potentially earn the most brownie points of all to being teacher’s pet.
That is after, of course, putting a name on everything.