When I was in school my mom was pretty hands-off about the whole experience. She dutifully went to parent teacher conferences, made sure I was doing my homework and signed my report cards but she wasn’t overly involved other than that. This was fine by me but I also know things were a bit simpler then. There were no school shootings and abductions were unheard of, at least in my neighborhood.
Things have changed of course, school violence tops the news and parents are spending more and more time worrying about the safety of their children. Many schools have metal detectors and new rules that make it harder to for anyone other than the parents to pick up a child. While I agree these things may now be necessary it saddens me. As my little girl approaches school age I am left wondering, “What do I need to know when she enters school?”
Who is running your child’s school? Do you know anything about the administrators? What are the principal’s teaching and discipline policies? Go to a school board meeting just to get a handle on what is going on in your district. I’m not suggesting you get background checks and detailed financial records on everyone involved but just having a general idea about what is going on will help put your mind at ease.
Find out who will be able to walk into the school and remove your child. This shouldn’t be anyone other than you and people you have pre-approved. Most schools are very good about this and some won’t allow anyone into the school without school escort and proper identification. If you are in a custody battle or there are other reasons certain family members should not be allowed near your children make sure you let the school know what is going on.
If your child is missing from school what happens? Will they call you or just assume you know the whereabouts of your child? If your child is present for school but fails to turn up for a class what will happen? It’s important to know what will happen if your child is missing. Many schools will call your home to confirm you know your child is absent. If they do not have this policy ask if it is possible in your case if this is what you want.
Teachers and Coaches
The news stories about coaches taking advantage of their team and teachers having sex with their pupils have been on the news a lot lately. Rest assured this is a rarity. It does happen though and sometimes you may never know about it if it happens in your community. Most teachers and coaches are wonderful people who only have your child’s best interest at heart; it’s the rare few that should concern you. Your best bet is to know who is teaching your child and who is involved in their sports program. Ask your child on a regular basis how things are going and if they need to tell you anything.
Childhood obesity is on the rise and it’s important you know what your child is being offered at school. Some schools offer high calorie foods with little or no nutritional value. Fast food and junk foods have found their way into some cafeterias. You may not be able to change what your school serves but if you are better informed you can help your child make better eating choices.
Find out what kind of testing your school does to monitor your child’s development and academic progress. Ask if you will receive notice of these scores and what is available to your child if they are falling behind.
Unless you child is required to wear a uniform to school you will want to look into dress policy. Many schools require shorts and skirts to be a certain length or ask that none of the navel area be exposed. I knew a guy in high school who would deliberately break the dress code just so he’d be sent back home to change. If you know what is expected you can monitor your child on the way out the door rather than having to come back from work to meet your child at home so they can change.
If your child has special needs do you know if your school is equipped to handle them? Do they have classes to help your child if they fall behind? Some schools have speech classes and remedial classes for the student that needs extra assistance and some do not. It is in your child’s best interest for you to find out.
Know what to expect in the case of an emergency. If there is a bomb threat or a fire will you be notified or will your child just be pushed out the door and told to go home? What will happen if your child has an emergency at school? How soon will they notify you and what happens if they can’t reach you?
What is Expected of You?
Most teachers like to schedule time to meet with you to discuss your child’s performance, make sure you attend these meetings. Your child’s teacher will be better equipped to help your child if they have your input. Some teachers even ask parents to sign off on homework so they know the child is doing their own work and not copying others work or finding papers on the Internet. Stay involved with your child’s teacher but don’t overwhelm them either. There is such a thing as being too involved.
Many schools accept volunteer help from the community. This may be in the form of teacher’s aides or help with sports programs. If there is a volunteer involved with your child in some way find out who they are and a little bit about them. Most volunteers are generous and wonderful folks that just want to help and they should be commended for that. Find out what your schools volunteer screening process is and if you don’t like it, work to change it.