25 Apr Teacher Appreciation: Preparing Children for School
May 8-12 is Teacher Appreciation Week
Teachers have a very challenging job. They must educate students while maintaining a safe environment for many restless children with different learning styles and needs. Many teachers go above and beyond by working extra hours planning and implementing special activities to help engage their students. They often spend their own money on resources and supplies for their students. In an ideal world, teachers would have resources and supplies for their classrooms along with a living wage. Smaller classroom sizes or teacher aides for larger classrooms would also be a good way to show our appreciation. While we work on making that a reality, parents can show appreciation by preparing children for school, providing support, and being engaged.
Preparing Children for School
The US Department of Education reports that only 40% of children ages 3-4 were enrolled in preschool in 2020. This means many children showing up for seven hours of kindergarten are not used to being away from their parents for even a few hours. Will those students be prepared to sit at their desks quietly during the lesson? How will they know how to line up for lunch or what to do when they need to use the restroom? Might some of them be crying for Mommy, Daddy, or Grandma? So, what can Leaders and parents do to help make a teacher’s job more manageable? Helping children be prepared for school is an excellent way to help teachers. Working with parents to teach children social skills and foster emotional intelligence can cut down on the disruptive behaviors that make teaching even more difficult.
Teaching social skills is a good way to prepare children for a successful school experience. There is plenty of material on this in the Active Parenting: First Five Years: program, classes for Leaders, classes for parents, and the Parent’s Guide. Some of the most helpful social skills for school are:
- Getting along with others. There are many different temperaments, and this can make it difficult for groups to get along. Getting along is easier if we are respectful of others. Part of getting along with others is the ability to take turns and be considerate of other people’s feelings.
- Taking Turns. There is a delicate balance we strive to achieve between our own needs/wants and those of others. Setting up age-appropriate rules about taking turns and modeling this behavior is an effective way to teach children how to strike this balance. Simple rules for young children like “We take turns with our toys” is a good place to start but may require follow-ups like setting time limits if siblings or friends can’t agree on how to implement this rule. In this way, we are teaching children to solve their own conflicts as they work out a fair way to take turns, but this will require some guidance and definitely some modeling.
- Following Directions. This skill has obvious benefits for teachers. Children who are taught to follow directions will make a smoother transition to life at school and cause fewer disruptions in class so everyone can get to learning! Not to mention it makes life easier at home.
- Saying “Goodbye” to Parents. It is recommended that parents develop a quick ritual when saying goodbye. A drawn-out and emotional goodbye will only increase the child’s anxiety. Parents should not try to sneak away and not give in to a meltdown as hard as that seems. Parents should let their children know when they will return. It is good to get children accustomed to goodbye by taking short trips—the more a child sees a parent leave but then return, the more confidence they have that “goodbye” is not forever. “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn is a great story to introduce children to the concept of separation and reassure them that their parents are always with them in spirit.
- Following Routines. Just like adults, children have a fear of the unknown. A consistent routine means the child knows what to expect and when. Again, balance is the key—there can be some flexibility but following basic routines for things like breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime is a good way to get children used to following routines. Children will be open to following routines at school if they have some experience with them at home. Attending an Open House before school starts, and learning what the child’s routine and day will look like, can be comforting because the child has some idea of what to expect.
- Sticking with Difficult Tasks. Children can be easily frustrated when things don’t come easily. Learning perseverance at home prepares children for school and life. Providing children with lots of encouragement helps them to stick with a difficult task and model positive self-talk. Children often feel like they should just know how to do everything, so it is important to explain that practice is how everyone gets better at doing anything and encourage them when things get tough.
- Considering Other People’s Feelings. Being considerate of other people’s feelings does not come naturally to children. Parents must model the behavior and encourage children to do the same. Showing children what they have in common with others can help foster empathy. If a child knows how a certain experience makes them feel, they may understand when someone else is experiencing the same thing. Helping children develop emotional intelligence is another way to help children become considerate of others.
- Having Positive Ways to Express Feelings. It is important for parents to help children find positive ways to express negative feelings rather than hitting, biting, screaming, or other negative and disruptive behaviors. There are many self-calming methods parents can teach their children to help them calm down enough to communicate their feelings. It is helpful in a classroom when children can calm themselves and then are able to ask the teacher for help in a calm manner that is less disruptive to the class. Parents can also talk with their children about when it’s appropriate to share positive feelings. It is not appropriate for a student to shout out their joy in the middle of a lesson.
Social skills require a degree of emotional intelligence. How well a child understands and manages their own emotions will lead to a better understanding of other people’s emotions and their ability to have empathy. Emotional intelligence is the ability to:
- Identify your own emotions and those of others. It is important to work with children on identifying emotions. Parents can begin by noticing what their child is feeling and putting a name to it. For example, parents can say “You look sad” Or “You seem excited”—it sets the stage for good communication between parent and child and it teaches the child how to show empathy to others. Leaders and parents can find many feelings and emotions worksheets online like this set from Teaching Expertise as well as many children’s books. When children can identify emotions, they are on the right track to step 2: managing their emotions or self-management.
- Manage our emotions and cheer up or calm down another person. When children are able to identify their emotions, they can learn how to manage their emotions in a positive way. For example, a child who is angry or upset can practice self-calming methods such as deep breathing, taking a time out, doing something physical like running, or other calming techniques that may be appropriate at the time. For age-appropriate information on managing anger refer to the First Five Years, Active Parenting 4th Edition, or Active Parenting of Teens Parent’s Guides. For more “spirited” children whose emotions can be “bigger,” try Taming the Spirited Child. A child who learns to identify and communicate their feelings and then manage their own emotions develops emotional intelligence. This can help them have more positive relationships. It also makes it easier for them to work well with others which is important for success in school and throughout life. When children can manage their own emotions, it becomes easier to recognize when someone else needs empathy and figure out how they can help.
- Use Emotions in Positive Ways. Once a child understands what they are feeling they can decide if they want to make a change or keep it the same. For example, parents can say: “You seem frustrated. Would you like me to help, or do you want to do it yourself?” or “You look like you liked that. Want to do it again?”
Active Parenting offers games that make learning about controlling anger, communicating feelings, and caring about others, as well as self-calming cards on our GAMES FOR LEARNING page.
Social Skills and emotional intelligence are a great foundation for a child’s academic career, but a parent’s job is not done there. Just like the Active Parenting Freedom within Limits concept, a parent’s support of school success evolves as the child grows. School Success is discussed in detail in Chapter 6 of the Active Parenting 4th edition Parent’s Guide. For children ages 5-12 we talk about:
- Showing Up and Showing Support. The CDC states “Research shows that parent engagement in schools is closely linked to better student behavior, higher academic achievement, and enhanced social skills.” Furthermore, the CDC concludes that children whose parents are engaged are more likely to avoid risky sexual behavior and substance abuse.
- Get To Know the Teachers and Encourage Them. Parents should get to know their child’s teachers. When you take an interest in others, you are recognizing their significance and showing that you value them. Notes of appreciation and encouragement go a long way to show support.
- Make Learning a Priority. School success begins with the learning atmosphere you develop. If children know that learning is a priority in their family, they will make it a priority. Learning doesn’t end when you graduate so it’s beneficial to inspire a love of learning.
- Structure Homework Time. Good study habits are important for school success. There are four ways to help children achieve this. 1 – Set up a regular work area. 2 – Agree on a regular study time. 3 – Make it a quiet learning time for the whole family. 4 – Develop a homework “to-do” list.
- Read and Talk with the Child. Reading aloud with a child is the best way to improve reading skills. Research shows that reading skills are the best predictor of school and career success.
- Filter (& limit) a Child’s Media. While a child needs to be able to use technology skillfully, there are also risks involved with complete access to everything. Media can be a strong influence on a child’s value system, not to mention the risk of predators and cyber bullies. There are ways parents can filter and limit their child’s media. 1 – spend time online with their child. 2 – help children find useful and appropriate websites. 3 – pay attention to games, apps, and other media children download. 4 – use filters to block sites that may be dangerous. 5 – monitor the amount of time children spend online. 6 – develop a clear set of guidelines, like time limits, for internet use. This can be done in a family meeting where everyone can have input.
- Support the School’s Discipline Plan. Make sure children understand the rules set forth by the school.
Fun Ways to Show Appreciation for Teachers
What else can we do to show our appreciation for teachers? Don’t forget that May 8-12 is Teacher Appreciation Week and teachers love fun and educational stuff too!
- Preparing Young Children for School from the US Department of Education
- How parents can help teachers so their kids do better in school from Study International
- Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness from American Journal of Public Health (AJPH)
- 11 Ways to Help Children Say Goodbye from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
Active Parenting Publishers has been providing research-based education programs with an emphasis on nonviolent discipline, mutual respect, and open communication for over 40 years.
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