Back to School Night – an Opportunity for Families

Starting last week already each of our Verona Area School District Schools has been hosting “Back to School Nights”.  These are opportunities for families to come to school after traditional hours and meet with teachers, tour the school, and become familiar with much of what a student’s life is like during a typical school day.  I think it is important to attend these events as it not only gives parents more info about the school, specifically their child’s class, but you also get to meet other families who are part of our district.

The past two years, I have attended the event with my wife in an effort to learn more about our neighborhood elementary school.  The evening usually provided an opportunity to meet with our daughter’s teacher who reviewed classroom policies and procedures.  The teacher also gave each family a brief update as to how the first week or two has gone.  I especially like meeting the teachers and talking with them at these events as it helps build a team that is committed to finding ways to keep my kids engaged in their education.  The teacher can’t do it alone, nor can my wife and I.  We need to work with the teacher to establish clear lines of communication so we know if there are problems occurring.  We also need to work on things that we can do at home that will reinforce and enhance what is being done in the classroom.

I think a challenge for many families is trying to determine when am I being too involved with my child’s education?  Working in higher education, I have had a lot of experience dealing with “helicopter parents”.  Helicopter parents are usually parents that hover over and around their child through every interaction they have and at the first sign of challenge the parents swoop in to try to drive the situation.  Somewhat understandable when the child is in elementary school, not as cool when the child is a freshman or older in college.  I used to think that this was a growing phenomenon for higher education only.  When I think of my oldest daughter I wonder if I have been a helicopter parent regarding her education.  She is only in second grade and there are some places where she has trouble articulating what her issues or concerns are so being an involved parent is good.  However, there is something to be said for letting her take control of the situation and trying to see what solutions she comes up with first before getting involved.  It is also important to trust that the teacher is on top of what’s happening.  We have outstanding teachers in our district and they are well trained to handle a variety of issues and concerns.  This is where rapport with the teacher and open communication are vital.   Instead of being a helicopter parent, a good relationship with her teacher will help me stay engaged in her learning, but in a way that is supportive to her and not a detriment.   I want my child to love education and to embrace the opportunities it provides.  Therefore it is paramount to find ways to be involved but providing room for her growth.  And while I have been talking about my daughter (singular), I would want this to be the case for all three of my kids as well as any child in the district.

I think one of the other things that I have found very beneficial about the “Back to School” night activities are meeting the parents of your child’s classmates.   I think there are a few reasons I enjoy this.  First, it is nice to meet others who are sharing the 2nd grade experience or the kindergarten experience for the first time.   Second, you may meet people who have similar work or life experience as you or you may meet people who have a very different life situation.  Either way it is an opportunity to engage and learn about others.  Finally, you may meet the parent of your child’s “boyfriend”, “girlfriend” or “bff”.  While we can work with teachers to manage the learning environment, social challenges will become an increasing part of our kids’ lives.  Why not find others who share the experience or who may have some insight from their end of the issue.

Another added benefit of attending “Back to School” night is the opportunity to tour the school.  For some parents with older kids that may be old hat, but for new families just starting the journey it is helpful to see not only your child classroom, but also some of the other parts of the school that they utilize.  My daughter was very excited about showing me the Library and Media Center a few years ago.  I think what I get out of the tour is the appreciation I have for the facilities we have in our district.  Our kids are fortunate.  We are also blessed with good custodians and maintenance personnel and actually all of our staff who work hard to make sure are buildings are clean.

Finally, I think it is important to attend the “Back to School Night” because it shows your child that you are invested in their education and that you find it important to learn about what their life is like every day away from the home.   Please don’t get me wrong, if you can’t make it to the event, you can’t make it.  There are still plenty of otherwise to be involved and be there for your child during their education.  If you are going to the event at Country View next week, I’ll be there.  And as a previous blog asked, if you haven’t signed up for PTA, please consider it.

These are the upcoming dates and times for our schools.

Sept 13 – Sugar Creek –                                                 6-6:45pm – Grades 1-3

Sugar Creek –                                                6:45-7:30pm – Grades 4-5

Sept 13 – Verona Area International School –          5:30-7:30

Sept 20 – New Century –

Sept 20 – Stoner Prairie –                                              5:30-7:00pm

Sept 20 – Country View                                                5:00-7:15pm

Sept 27 – Savannah Oaks

Sept 27 – Badger Ridge –                                              7-9pm

Sept 27 – Core Knowledge (middle) –                        7-9pm

Oct 4 – Glacier Edge –                                                   5:30-7:30pm

Already Completed:

Sept 6 – Core Knowledge (elementary)

Sept 10 – Verona Area High School

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About johnmmcculley

Father of three, currently serving in my first term on the Verona Area School Board. Hoping to help foster more open discussions about the future of education in my community.
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