Ten Things Every Teacher Should Know

School is just around the corner for your sweet child.

As you know, your child’s teacher spends five days, and approximately 40-hours with your child each week. School is practically his second home. The teacher is there to help your child grow mentally and emotionally, and in addition to academics, she teaches your child many life-, social-, and communication skills in his classroom environment. It is therefore very important to communicate from the start and keep in contact with your child’s teacher throughout the school year to help her contribute to his progress and success.

I know this can be very challenging, especially if you had upsetting interactions with a teacher in the past. There are things you can do to help though, starting with getting everyone on the same page. Let’s start the school year on the right foot.

Here are ten things every teacher should know about you and your child:

1.  Allergies and food sensitivities:
Make it very clear if your child has any allergies, food sensitivities, or has to maintain a special diet. Be specific about any negative reactions that could occur if he were to get a hold of certain foods. I will never forget one of my first teaching experiences.  Fifteen years ago, I had a student who was allergic to gluten.  He took two pieces of candy from a classmate and ate them.  The next day, his mother asked me if he had gotten hold of any food that wasn’t in his lunchbox.  I hadn’t mentioned it to her, because I thought it was only two pieces of candy.  Boy, was I wrong (and I never made that mistake again…what a learning experience)! He was so sensitive to gluten that he ended up being sick all night with stomach problems. I learned a very valuable lesson that day.

2.  Behavioral strategies:
If you have a behavior system that is successful at home, let your teacher know about it. If your child responds well to music, let her know if music calms him down when he is agitated, or if music wakes him up when he is tired.  Tell her if you have tried using a sticker chart as a reward system and had absolutely no success with it.  Perhaps you use a countdown method, where you show your child your hand and countdown from five to get a desired response, or maybe your child responds well to quiet time when he is overwhelmed and has just had a meltdown. Taking a short walk, sitting in another classroom, or participating in a movement activity may help redirect him. Whatever works at home can be helpful in the classroom as well.  The teacher may also be able to offer you some strategies to help you at home.

3.  Sensory challenges:
What type of sensory issues does your child display?  Does he rock back and forth to calm himself down?  Does he sit on a special seat cushion at home that may help him at school?  Maybe he has a special toy or object that he likes to squeeze that calms him down.  Does he bite on a chewy pencil topper to redirect oral-motor behaviors? Perhaps he uses earplugs or headphones in loud places that might benefit him in the cafeteria.  Be sure to tell his teacher about any sensory techniques that work for your child. You can even send in some of his favorite sensory toys in a box or container for him to keep at his desk.

4.  Special interests:
The teacher will benefit from knowing about your child’s special interests.  You can prepare a list for her by writing down 10 activities or toys that your child likes. You can create a scrapbook filled with activities and photos of his interests, which your child can help prepare. He can then share this book with the teacher so that they can more easily connect.

5.  Triggers:
What really upsets your child?  If loud noises, such as fire alarms and the school bell, are overwhelming for your child, inform his teacher.  If he runs away when someone raises their voice, or when children cry, be sure to pass on that information. I have observed students who are super sound sensitive and negatively affected by humming and tapping. This is important information, especially if your child is seated next to another student who hums. Do scents and smells bother your child? Keep this in mind when you are talking to the teacher about possible challenges in the cafeteria.

6.  Communication Tools:
How does your child communicate best?  Show or give the teacher any communication books or visual tools that you use with your child.  If he uses photographs to express himself, be sure to give his teacher a copy of those photos. If apps on a tablet are his main mode of communication, be sure to share this device with the school.

7.  Homework:
Ask for homework to be sent home to help bridge the gap between home and school and reinforce lessons learned. I know how challenging homework time can be for you and your child. However, homework is a great way to find out what your child is doing in class, and keeps you connected to the teacher.  Some teachers do not send homework because they know that the work requires one-on-one assistance and they don’t want to overwhelm you.  If you feel overwhelmed and need some strategies to help you get through homework time, ask the teacher for some ideas of what works in class.  You can also contact Jennifer Lingle, M.Ed. for some recommended techniques.

8. Problem Reports:
Do you want your child’s teacher to tell you every negative thing that happens in school?  If not, let the teacher know that you are fully aware of your child’s behaviors and you would love it if her reports focused on his successes.  This is not to say, of course, that you never want to know about his behaviors, but you prefer not to hear about behaviors you are already aware of every time you pick him up.

9.  Updates:
Ask for weekly, if not daily updates that include his progress, major concerns, and activities to work on at home.  If you are worried about overwhelming the teacher, create a checklist for her of all the things you would like to know about each day or week.

10.   Support:
Let the teacher know that you are there to support her.  If she needs anything, you would like her to contact you. You are a team and want to work together to ensure your child’s success. Forming a partnership with your child’s teacher will benefit you, your child, and his teacher.

What do you want your child’s teacher to know about your child?

  • David Koegl
    Posted at 09:03h, 08 September Reply

    I just read this article, and as an educator of special needs students, I found it very insightful. The only problem I had was that the teacher in the picture was a woman and the teacher referred to as “her” all through the article. The district where I teach has all male teachers in the middle schools and several in other schools. Not a big deal, but just saying.

    • Jennifer Lingle
      Posted at 07:56h, 29 September Reply

      Hi David, Thank you for your comment. I absolutely recognize that there are many male teachers out there. My intention was not to offend anyone. I often write my articles using the “he” pronoun for the students and the “she” pronoun for teachers. I try to switch it up, but I will make more of an effort. I know that families are incredibly grateful for all awesome teachers. Thanks again.

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