By Robyn Scott
Some parents will have the opportunity to ask other parents in their network about the teacher assigned to their child. Parents who have mom friends with older children who are in the same school district are in luck. But what if you are the mom who had kids first and everyone is planning to rely on your advice and expertise? What if your kid is attending a charter or private school that will be new to you this year or if you recently moved to the area? Without a heads up as to what to expect from an elementary or middle grades teacher, the first semester at school can be just as daunting for mom as it can be for kids. When I was teaching elementary and middle school I was often asked a few questions that let me know my student’s mom’s were curious about what their kids’ experience would be like and, on the other hand, there were many questions I was surprised mom’s didn’t ask. There are a few questions that I encourage moms to ask ASAP.
Every parent asked this question first; it’s the first thing on many parents’ minds, especially as their kids get closer to high school. Each teacher has a different grading system so I suggest asking right away. One thing that might be tricky is the same teacher may grade differently for different classes. So if you have a son in the 7th grade and a daughter in 5th, remember to ask the teacher if s/he has different policies. For the most part, teachers integrate stricter grading expectations for older students but each teacher and each school is unique.
Every teacher has a pet peeve and these usually have something to do with how they run their classroom. For example, if a teacher starts the class with a lecture and moves on to projects in the second half, a student who comes in late on a regular basis will interrupt the lecture. Whereas another teacher may hold a Q & A session in the beginning thus a student who comes in quietly a couple of minutes late may not bother the class structure that much. I recommend asking your child’s teacher what her/his top 3 specific expectations are. That way you’ll know what is paramount and what can fall by the wayside on a stressful morning.
One thing that surprised me here is that some parents don’t want their child to have extra credit or second chances under certain circumstances. If this is the case, definitely let the teacher know. Some moms want their child, especially if they are headed towards the 9th grade, to learn the consequences of not studying or not managing their time in a safer environment (colleges never ask for 8th grade transcripts). On the other hand, perhaps a child is dealing with personal issues or the loss of a family member. Ask the teacher if s/he allows second chances and also let her/him know if you want your child to have them.
Many parents want to be able to help their child at home and make sure homework is done and handed in on time. However, each child is different and some may be totally fine with math but need extra help with reading comprehension or vice versa. Children’s minds grow so fast that their academic needs may change rapidly throughout the year, especially in the younger grades. The teacher will notice patterns and can help moms identify which specific topics a particular student needs help with.
Children are often less likely to talk with mom about social issues occurring at school once they reach the middle school years. They may come home from school and act out or appear sad for no particular reason. For the most part, their teacher will know if they have lots of friends, if they are being bullied, or if there is some sort of general social issue. Socialization is a huge part of the school environment and a healthy social life can make all the difference in a student’s development.
Robyn Scott is a private tutor with TutorNerds LLC in Irvine, CA. She has a BA from the University of California, Irvine and a MA from the University of Southampton, UK.