Teacher Tips To Ease The Back To School Blues

My Miss A, all grins and ready to gear up for kindergarten, summer 2010.

School starts in Nashville tomorrow and I’m in full-on get ‘er done mode. Still, there’s only so much preparation a mama can do, even for a self-professed control freak like me. School supplies have been purchased and new tennis shoes and school uniforms are laid out, but I still have a nagging feeling I’m forgetting something. My girls are beyond excited about the first day of school, though, and all kidding aside, it’s a real blessing to see them love school so much.

I am a sucker for tips and what better resource for ways to prepare for the school year than teachers themselves? I asked two teachers in my life, my awesome sister-in-law Jill and Patrice McCrary, an award-winning kindergarten teacher in Bowling Green, Kentucky, for their sage advice.

From Jill, my sister-in-law who teaches preschool and was named a regional Teacher of the Year for 2010:

  • Ask your child’s teacher for a few suggestions on how you can help her in the classroom. If you are not available to help during the school day, you could offer to help cut out materials at night or purchase any “wish list” items for the class. If you can help during the day, ask if there is an opportunity to volunteer your time either in the classroom or in the teacher workroom.  (I love to place “to do” items in a tub for parents to grab and work on in another part of the building if necessary. Having a parent in the classroom can sometimes be a distraction to the students, so this helps fulfill a classroom need and allows us to continue on with our learning with minimal interruptions!)
  • Organize an area in your home where backpacks, folders, and lunchboxes will ALWAYS be placed. Go through each child’s backpack to review the day’s work and check for notes or project reminders (yikes!) as soon as you get home.
  • I just can’t resist this one…NEVER give your child’s teacher a coffee mug with an apple on it.  We already have two dozen of them. Instead, learn what she really likes, like a small gift card to a favorite store or restaurant (We spend a lot of our paycheck on our classroom, and we can’t afford to eat out very often), or head to the local bakery and indulge her with a chocolate cupcake! The best present I ever received from a student was a surprise boxed lunch from a local sandwich shop…and the mom watched my class while I had a one hour lunch instead of 25 minutes! There truly is value in thoughtfulness!
  • Avoid discussing your child’s teachers, coaches, or principal in a derogatory way in front of your child.  Instead, help your child navigate through tough situations by teaching him/her problem-solving skills. Stand BESIDE your child and the problems he/she faces, not IN FRONT OF him or her. Your reward will be a self-sufficient 25-year-old, not one that runs home to Mommy and Daddy for help with problems that they should be skillful at handling!

I met Patrice McCrary last summer during a Kleenex event for mom bloggers and their students entering kindergarten.  Here are her tips for making the school year a success:

  • Don’t think your child is going to jump up eagerly shouting for joy at the crack of dawn ready to go to school if he/she has been sleeping late all summer.  Well before school begins (about two weeks out) begin to slowing get your child in a school year bedtime and waking schedule. If you ease into it they will not notice the transition.
  • Get prepared for paperwork that will head your way throughout the school year. An investment in a bulletin board would be great for any household. As soon as something from school comes home is can be put in that one central spot to hold field trip notices, permission slips, announcements, etc.
  • Many teachers have websites now. Go to your school district web page to find out if your child’s teacher has a site. Even if another teacher in that grade level has a site you can get some great information from there before school even begins.
  • If you have an elementary aged student who enjoys recess on a daily basis, then think tennis shoes daily. Play equipment can be hazardous if proper shoes are not worn.
  • When putting your child’s name on the outside of a backpack, be sure to place the name on the part of the backpack that will rest against your child’s back as a safety precaution.
  • Build a good rapport with your child’s teacher. We teachers love a quick “thank you.” If your child had a terrific first day, jot your child a quick note letting him/her know. You would not believe what a boost that is to a tired teacher during that first week of school.
  • Before going to the trouble of writing your child’s name on every single supply you purchase be sure to check with the teacher to see if those supplies are kept individually or gathered for community supplies.
  • Some parents love to give teachers a beginning of the year gift (and later in the year gifts as well). Every teacher always appreciates these but I will be honest with you. The best of the best of gifts for a teacher is a gift card. It really does not matter from where the card comes…but I promise you, we already have a zillion little teacher knick-knacks.

Edited to add: From the teacher’s perspective, I also have Busy Dad’s (Nashville’s own Busy Mom‘s husband) tips for prepping for the school year:

  • Organize my school-year calendar by assigning a lesson to every school day class period, writing it in  my planner, then posting it on my teacher website (a week before school starts) for the students to refer to all semester. Everyone knows what we are doing every class meeting.
  • Spend a couple of days cleaning out the classroom: accumulated papers, files, books, shelves. Cleaning up the computer files, emails, obsolete documents.
  • Personal stuff: get a haircut, make sure I have picked up everything from the dry cleaner, finish the one or two things on my summer to-do list that I really wanted done, have a back yard camp-out and night swim and a movie night with my bride.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share for making the transition from summer to school a bit easier? When does school start for your kids?


  1. Erinn S says:

    Love Jill’s suggestion of no Apple Mugs! 🙂 my momtaught for years and now subs and her most cherished gift was a quilt a room mom made after taking a day a sub was in to get all kids handprints and have them sign there name below and put those squares on the quilt!

  2. JDaniel4's Mom says:

    Thank you so much for linking this amazing post to the Back to School Traditions link up. I had over twelve teacher mugs by the time I left teaching.

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