Back to School for Parents

Back to school can be an exciting time for parents! After busy summers of mom camps, dad camps, crafts, park play dates, swimming, and adventuring it could be a relief to get back to the school year routine. 

We have some great tips and reminders to help parents ease back into the school year and help develop a great partnership with your child’s teacher. 

Respect boundaries of the classroom. It is important to learn what rules your child’s teacher sets up to help run a smooth class. Each teacher has their own rules routines and procedures, and the ones that applied last year might not be the same this year. This could include how to set up conferences, volunteering, email, pick up and drop off. Some routines and procedures are school wide, some are grade level, and others are individual teacher’s.  While we are sure that most teachers (unless it is not allowed at their school) welcome parents to volunteer to be part of the classroom community, it’s important to follow protocol. It can be disruptive to the lessons and work being done in the classroom to have parents dropping in every morning or during unplanned times throughout the day without having prior knowledge of it. 

We would like to pay special attention to the fact that it is so incredibly important for the development of your child to have their own space and place. Children as young as kindergarten can and should walk into their classrooms independently while carrying their own supplies. The sense of responsibility that they gain from this small act alone is HUGE. If you are itching to get into the classroom, find out the appropriate volunteer times and sign up or email the teacher to ask when the best time to stop by and look at the projects or bulletin boards would be.

Find out the best way to communicate with your child’s teacher and follow that. Many times teachers are juggling many things at once and if a parent has “one quick thing” to tell you right as you are greeting your students, teaching a lesson, or supervising children at dismissal, it can be very overwhelming. Teachers always want to give parents their full attention and when kids are present, they are our top priority. It is always best to find out the best way to communicate and follow that protocol. Typically it is sending an email, or setting up a meeting if you have something you want to discuss. Finally, remember that teachers are usually teaching or preparing to teach all day, they often do not have the luxury of time to respond to emails immediately, so try to give them at least 24 hours to respond to you.

Hold your child accountable for remembering homework, sweatshirts, lunches, and projects. Do your best to not jump in and save them everytime they forget something. Children will learn more from the natural consequences of forgetting something, than they will if you bring what they have forgotten to them. It will give you some relief too, to know that you aren’t responsible for midday drop offs to your child. Of course if it is an emergency, it is completely understandable, but it should be the exception, not the rule. The learning experience of forgetting something and not having it, holds a lot more value. 

Let your child experience discomfort when they make a mistake at school. If your child does something that is out of character, try your best not to make excuses for them. Hold them responsible for the mistake and move on. Making an excuse for your child will not help them learn, it will help justify their actions. Every child makes mistakes. It is a healthy part of development. We always tell parents that school is not just a place to learn math, reading, and writing. School is where children learn how to be members of society. If your child never learns about consequences and accountability, it could create bigger problems later. The most important part about making mistakes is how it is dealt with after the fact. 

We hope that the transition from summer into a new school year is a smooth one for both you and your child. However if it isn’t, remember that children need to experience discomfort in order to learn how to deal with things that will come up in their life. Talking to your child’s teacher to come up with a plan for your child will help everyone be on the same page and help your child transition into a new school year. 

Shame, Judgement, and the Comparison Trap

If you haven’t heard of Brené Brown, google her (after you are done reading this of course). She is a shame researcher who has a famous TED talk, has written several books, and recently released a Netflix special. One of the things that she discusses is shame that parents experience. Parent shaming is a real thing and it has to stop. We see parent shaming online, we see it in our schools, we see it at the grocery store, we see it on planes, and we see it in restaurants. There are many parenting styles and you don’t have to agree with all of them, but can we stop judging each other for every little thing?

While we love to give advice and tips on specific areas of raising balanced children in the 21st century, we never want to come off like we are shaming people. Our main advice is always balance. Balance means you do what you can when you can. We find that along with shame are judgment and comparison.  Neither of these are good for your health or your family’s health.

Let’s start off by talking about judgement. It is easy to judge other people. Especially if you don’t know what their day has been like. If a child is throwing a tantrum in a store, most people will immediately judge the parent for it. However, we do not know what the situation is. Perhaps the child missed their nap, maybe they are sick, or just maybe they are a child with special needs. Kids also have a mind of their own and can sometimes be unpredictable. We do not know, so we must not judge.

Shaming a parent is when you put your judgment into action and decide you want to give a parent a look, a piece of your mind, make passive aggressive comments, or even talking behind their back. Your intention is to make them feel like they are doing a bad job, being a bad parent, or have something to be ashamed of.

Before judging a parent (or anyone really) ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I know them or their situation?
  • Am I trying to help them or shame them?
  • Does it affect me?
  • Do I have good intentions?

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

The other side of judgement and shame is comparing yourself to other people. In the age of social media, we are all bombarded on a daily basis by perfection. People most often will post and share the perfect moments in their lives. The idyllic family hike, the children baking, or siblings playing happily. What is not seen are the fights, the mess, the arguments and struggles that are a part of real life. And yet, the perfection is what we compare our lives to. We feel less than because our house is a mess, we aren’t hiking, and the cake is store bought.

If you are feeling less than, then perhaps take time away from social media. Take your family to the park to play, order a pizza and have a family night in, or have game night with your children. Remind yourself that “This too shall pass,” that the messy, crazy, and hard parts of parenting are only temporary, that no family is perfect, and that all of it is okay.

We as a society have to take the mantel for ending parent shaming and judgement. It is up to us to model for our children to respect and accept others.

Your Child is Not Your Friend

There has been a recent trend of parents proclaiming their child as their best friend. These parents will proudly call their child their bestie or best friend and post about it on social media.  While we understand the underlying sentiment that is being conveyed, we do not believe that the parent and child relationship should be friend like.

Your child is your child. You love them, enjoy spending time with them, and have a blast creating memories with them. However, it should always be remembered that this relationship is not on equal footing. As the parent, you should have the power in the relationship. The parents job is to set boundaries, because as a developing child, they do not know what is best for them. They need guidance and support as they mature and develop. The adult knows what’s best for them, and as such they are in charge. Unlike what friendships are like, this relationship is not equitable.

Telling a child that you are friends confuses them. Children have friends at daycare, school, or around the neighborhood. Within these social groups the power dynamics is often shared between the children. No one child is in charge of the group, setting boundaries, or telling others what to do. Children can choose to not play along, or to not listen to what their friend tells them to do. They have the power in their social groups to choose and do as they please. However, if a parent asks a child to brush their teeth or pick up their toys, a child usually does not have the power or ability to disagree and not complete the task. A child cannot interact or react with their parent like they might with their friends. If parents are constantly calling their child their friend, then when it comes time to dictate a rule or set a boundary children will not understand why they have to do it. While at first it might be cute, in the long run this will create challenges for the parents as the child grows up.

This type of adult-child relationship sets up confusing expectations at school for children too. Teachers are not their students’ friend. In an elementary school classroom, the teacher is in charge of the classroom and the students. While they might have fun together, it is very clear that that authority figure is the teacher. There is no bargaining with the expectation that the teacher sets for his or her classroom. When the directions are to work on an assignment, line up, or clean up students must follow the directions. Students who have the idea that they are friends with the adult in the room have a challenge at school where the power dynamic is not equal.

At the end of the day, remember, your child will grow up, and eventually the parent-child relationship will evolve into more of a friendship. When children grow into adulthood they are more equipped to understand and share in certain conversations and responsibilities that are common among friend-like relationships. But when they are young and developing, you are in charge. You are the parent. You are not equal to your child, and they need to know that.

That does not mean that you can’t hang out, talk with, and experience things with your child like you would with your friends. All of these moments will add up to a close and long lasting friendship with them when they do grow up.

What to Do in the Summer: Academics

With summer vacation quickly approaching, this is the time of year when we tend to get many questions from parents about what academics should be done over the summer. We are big proponents of letting summer time be a time for play, fun, relaxation, and exploration. This can be a great opportunity for kids to explore new things, discover a passion, focus on another interest or develop a talent.

If a child is struggling and needs more support in a particular subject, we would suggest doing some academics. However the only time we would suggest getting any kind of tutoring is only when it is actually needed. There should be no rush or pressure to be ahead in school. Depending on the child, it might actually take the joy out of learning and that would be a shame.

If a child ends up being ahead naturally and is really interested in a particular subject, that’s great. You can definitely support them in this area without pushing them or MAKING them do extra work they do not want or have to do. In this case, the child should be driving it and you are either letting them do their thing or finding ways to support their curiosity.

There are things that kids can do to practice skills that are fun and rewarding for them. The key is to keep it light so that it doesn’t seem like work.

Reading

Summer is a great time for kids to discover new interests, and reading is a great place to discover new passions. Kids should learn early on that reading isn’t only for school. Reading for pleasure can be a wonderful, and good for the soul, free time activity. Going to the library and checking out books with your child is a great way to promote reading during the summer. Checking one out for yourself to read will demonstrate to your child that reading is fun, not a chore.

Journaling

It is great for kids to learn how to journal at a young age. They can write about their summer adventures, add in pictures, illustrations, or make it into a scrapbook. Not only will they learn to and begin to reflect on their day, but it allows them to practice their writing skills. While you should tell them to just write and not worry about spelling and punctuation, the more practice they get with writing the more they will grow as a writer.

Writing letters

Writing letters to family members that live in another place could be a fun activity, especially if they were expecting a letter back in the mail. If you go on vacation, you can have them write postcards to their friends or teachers. Again this is a fun way to promote, support, and build writing skills.

Things you can do in moderation

Practice Multiplication Facts

Multiplication facts are often introduced in 2nd and 3rd grade. It is helpful for children to practice multiplication facts during the summer so that they do not forget them and to keep the momentum going as they transition into the next grade. There are a variety of ways to help children practice and memorize multiplication facts. Practicing with flashcards a couple of times a week is one way, but there are also apps that make it more game like. Keep in mind that it is easier and more fun to practice these for 15 minutes a day than for 1 hour once a week.

Review

A little practice of more complex mathematical concepts, such as long division, multiplication, or fractions, whose algorithm is new to students or consists of multiple steps might be beneficial for students for whom these proved to be challenging during the school year. We only ever recommend it as a way to strengthen their math skills and return to school in September with better understanding and more self confidence in math.

Overall, summer should be about rest and relaxation. While a little bit of practice here and there is a good idea, if your child is having a blast at summer camp, a relatives house, at the beach, or anywhere your family decides to spend summer, do not stress about academic summer work.

Our big motto is that everyone should strive for balance. Summer brings great balance to children. The school year is long and full of lots of learning, responsibilities, sport games and practices, and projects. Let children have the summer to be children, eat ice cream, dig holes, swim, play and climb. Those are the main homework assignments we assign our students at the end of the year, and that is what they need to be doing during summer.

Teacher Appreciation Week

This week is Teacher Appreciation week! Appreciation of the hard work that teachers do every day is near and dear to our hearts. Teachers are doing very important work in society, and often can feel undervalued and overwhelmed. While it would be ideal to appreciate teachers all year long, it is nice to have a reminder and an entire week dedicated to appreciating teachers.

Ultimately the best way that society can appreciate teachers is with:

1) Support for students

2) Respectable compensation

2) Smaller class sizes

3) Resources and supplies for classes

4) Societal respect

These are our hopes and dreams for the teaching profession! We understand that these might be a bit difficult to accomplish this week, but a teacher can dream! We hope that one day teachers all over the country have these things.

But seriously, we thought we would offer some realistic ways to appreciate the teacher in your life this week.

1) A handwritten card from students

2) Small treats to keep in the desk

3) Coffee or tea

4) Flowers for their desks

5) Verbal affirmation or a positive email

6) A positive email to their supervisor

7) A bottle of wine

These are all little things that go a long way in making a teacher feel appreciated and supported. While we keep fighting for the top four, it is good to feel like we have people supporting and appreciating the work we do!
We also found this great resource with everything you need to appreciate your teachers or even plan events to appreciate teachers at your school!

Children Need Balanced Teachers

Expectations

Teaching has always been a multi disciplinary job. Because teachers are working with young people, teachers throughout history have not only taught lessons on content, but they have been psychologists, nurses, advertisers, friends, and so much more. The teaching profession has always been a stressful career. However, today more than ever, the expectations placed on teachers are astronomical.

In addition to what teachers have traditionally done, in recent years teachers have had a multitude of new responsibilities added to their already metaphorically overflowing cups.

With the advent of technology, parents all over the world are granted constant communication about their child. This generation of children have grown up since birth with apps that communicate with parents. When children go off to school, many parents expect and want constant communication from their child’s teacher. So, teachers have to take a plethora of photos, run class social media accounts for their class, update a classroom website, write weekly blogs about what they are doing in the classroom, manage individual student blogs, monitor student email accounts, use several applications to send data home to parents, along with teaching, grading papers, reporting for recess or lunch duty, assessing and collecting data, writing report cards, emailing parents, differentiating lessons, planning field trips, making copies, and so much more. We absolutely love the new and wonderful ways to share and communicate with parents their child’s growth, however it seems that many new things have been added to the teacher’s plate, and nothing has been taken away.

With so much to do, in so little time, teachers oftentimes feel like they cannot take a breath. It is an overwhelming and depleting feeling. We feel that we are failing the most important people, our students. Teaching is not just about tests, data, photos, and grades. The most important aspect of teaching is the connections and relationships that we build with our students. As elementary school teachers we know that students will not remember the grammar or spelling lessons we teach, but they will remember the way we make them feel. If teachers are overworked and stressed, then their students feel that too.

Prioritizing

When teachers feel the need to do it all, they get burnt out. According to the National Education Association, more than 40% of teachers leave the profession within 5 years! If you want to remain a teacher for the long haul, take care of yourself and keep a work life balance. It is okay to say no, especially when your cup is already overflowing.

For teachers to have a balanced life and a balanced classroom, they must prioritize. Because there is such a high expectation placed on teachers, you have to learn that you will not be able to do everything. Pick the most important things for “right now” and leave the rest for later. You have to get comfortable always having a to-do list. As a teacher you will never have that moment of being “done.” Education practices are always changing and by nature, we are lifelong learners. Our schools and classrooms change every year. So even at the end of the school year, teachers are planning for their next group of students. Honestly, there will be things that you won’t EVER get to. And you know what? That’s okay. Most likely it won’t change a thing in your class and no one will know except for you. So be kind to yourself and make sure you maintain a balance for yourself.

Flexibility

Flexibility is one of the most important tools in the classroom. If we are not flexible, then the kids will not be flexible. Real life in the classroom is not how it is portrayed in the media. A real classroom is messy, loud, and not perfect. We plan lessons and projects, but things do not always go as planned. When the smart board doesn’t work, the internet is down, the copies you made were the key, and not the actual student worksheet (It happens!) students look to us and see how we react. Teachers need to remember that there is a solution to every problem, no matter how great. The solution might not present itself in the moment, but that is when we say “Oh well,” and do something else in the class. When teachers are stressed, students are stressed too. Being flexible and more importantly modeling flexibility to our students is important.

We remember the feeling of wanting to please everyone when we were new teachers. When you are in charge of educating young minds there are a lot of people with high expectations of you. In our first years of teaching we wanted our classrooms to be Pinterest perfect all the time and we wanted to be liked by everyone. With experience, we learned that neither of these were attainable all the time. Our classrooms will not be perfect all the time, you will not agree with everything that administration says or does, parents might not like you. Guess what? It is okay! As long as you are showing up for your kids every school day and giving each of those students not only the academic content they need, but you are seeing them for who they are and loving them for it, then you are doing an amazing job. Teaching is one of the hardest professions there is, and we are all doing the best we can for our children.

Why do Children Need Balanced Teachers?

When teachers aren’t balanced, their students aren’t getting what they deserve. Lessons are thrown together, the grading piles up and everything gets rushed because the teacher is just trying to survive each day. When you feel like you don’t have enough time, it is time to practice the things above: prioritizing and flexibility. Children need balanced teachers because they need people that are showing up everyday that want to be there. Overworked, unbalanced teachers end up resenting their job. They are tired, irritable, and impatient. Teachers that are balanced want to show up and be present for their students.

It’s important that teachers get the time they need to plan meaningful lessons for the students. It’s important that this time not be taken up by extra meetings, conferences, and a quick PD to teach this brand new program that administration decides needs to be implemented mid-year. Time to plan meaningful lessons should be a sacred time for teachers. When this time is mis-managed by administration, we are letting down our students. They are the ones that suffer.

Balanced teachers have the time and energy to run a functioning, healthy class. They have the energy to support that struggling student. They have the time to connect with that student who often falls under the radar. They have the spirit to tell jokes, have brain breaks, connect as a class community and make their class a joyous place to learn and grow.



Balanced Children Have Balanced Parents

Bringing balance to our lives and to our children isn’t always easy. We have to be mindful, make choices to let go of certain expectations, possibly change routines, and most importantly be aware that we can’t and shouldn’t do it all.

Children Mimic Us
As educators, we spend most of our days getting to know our students at school. We become familiar with their personalities. By the end of September each year, we can confidently identify if a child is going to have a fantastic day, or if one might need extra high fives and check-ins. As educators and curious observers of the world around us, it has always been so interesting to meet parents after becoming so familiar with our students. We recognize where a student might get their long eyelashes from, their cleft chin, or that one curl that has a mind of its own. We hear familiar giggles, expressions and sense of humor. It is so exciting to recognize ourselves in our children. What an astounding feat it is, to leave an imprint of ourselves for generations to come!

Apart from the genetic and biological aspect of human development, children learn by observing their parents. Parents are their first exposure to human behavior, relationships and language. There is no one so perfect and so right in our children’s eyes than their caretakers. Think of the times when children are learning to speak or walk. Before they even begin the actual act of making sounds, they hear it; before they try to figure out how to use their legs, they have been observing their parents amble around all day. This observe and do pattern does not stop! It continues long after they have moved out of the nest.

Now, you may not want to, but imagine one of those extra busy mornings. One where you feel rushed and anxious. You have to get yourself ready for work, get the children ready for school or daycare. Not to mention make and eat breakfast, make sure that everyone has a lunch, and make it to school on time for drop off. If you have ever experienced this stress and anxiety, then there is a possibility that your child was experiencing this with you. Children are very good at identifying and taking in the energy of grownups. When you are unbalanced, anxious, stressed, overworked, and have nothing left to give, they feel and exhibit that too.

When life is catching up with you and you are starting to feel this way, it is time to slow down. If there is too much on your plate, you need to prioritize the most important things and let go of other things. On those mornings, hours, or days when you are feeling overly stressed and frustrated, stop, take a breath and know that everything and everyone will be fine. If you have a partner, it will help to share your stressors with them and come up with a game plan together. It also helps to talk to other parents that are also feeling these same stressors. Find your community of like minded parents and don’t let go.  Remember raising kids is a series of stages, however overwhelmed you are feeling at that moment, know that it will pass.

Focusing on Flexibility
The most important life lesson that should be visited and revisited in the classroom and at home is flexibility. Assemblies do not always follow the schedule. Dad can’t always do preschool drop off. Things do not go the way they are planned. This is an illusion that we tell ourselves when things are going well. In fact, plans work because of the wiggle room that accompanied it. In the classroom when the technology does not work, we copied the wrong papers, or the glue bottles dried up, we often say “C’est la vie.” Such is life. There are things that are out of our control in our classrooms and in our homes. Feeling frustration and anger is normal, but understanding that that frustration and anger will not fix the problem is incredibly important for our children to learn. Being flexible, regrouping, and figuring out how to move on is a skill that parents and teachers need to model for children.

Benefits of Balance
Parents that are balanced have balanced children. If you and your household are unbalanced, then your child will be too. We have had students that continuously forget their homework, misplace their workbooks or folders, have 7 water bottles in their cubbies, come to school without any of their supplies, or have big emotional reactions when things do not go the way they wanted or thought they would go. There are times when learning differences and special needs are the reason for such emotions. However, being around parents that are over worked, spread out too thin, and stressed out plays a big factor into any child’s daily performance. These emotions and behaviors manifest themselves in children too.

On the other hand, students who have parents that have a work-life balance, take on challenges with a positive attitude, and are present in the moment, often thrive in our classrooms. They tackle challenges calmly and cooly, they have better resilience, and a stronger sense of self. These students do well in our classrooms, the school yard, and with friends.

There is no way that stresses can be eliminated in our lives. We deal with different kinds of stressors all day long. However you deal with these pressures in your life, always take the time to talk to your children about it.  This, after all, is talking about balance. It is OK for your child to see you frustrated or irritated. These are all very real emotions that they will encounter and feel in their lifetime. What is important is that you address it with them before they take these observations elsewhere. Just as you would walk through each step of what your doing with an infant to expose them to language, walk your child through your thought process when you reacted so emotionally to an unsavory event. Get them involved by asking them how they thought the reaction helped or hurt the situation. It shows them that it is OK to react to frustrations and reflect on better ways to deal with these unexpected situations.

Being a parent is an all day every day job without any sick or vacation days. Everyone is doing the best they can. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unbalanced, sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder that it is okay to slow down, cancel plans, and just take some time to get things back in order. It will make a more balanced life for you and for your children. The key is to not be perfect all the time, but to have an awareness when you need to create more balance.