Read an Excerpt
By Cheli Cerra
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-471-72013-5
Chapter OneSECTION ONE: SUMMER Gearing Up for School Success
"I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework." Lily Tomlin as "Edith Ann"
Snapshot #1: My Child Has the Back-to-School Blues
My child is starting a new school and is very concerned about the new school year. He is anxious about making new friends, meeting new teachers, and not knowing the school building or the neighborhood and its surroundings. To tell the truth, I am anxious too. What should I do?
For a successful start to the school year, bring Getting to Know My Child (Worksheet #5, page 116) to your first parent-teacher conference.
Call the school before the first day to find out if and when it is open. If it is, pay the school a visit. See if you and your child can meet the new teachers before school starts and tour the building to become more comfortable with it. You may want to call beforehand to make sure that the principal or other school personnel will be available to assist you. It's a good idea to start at the main office and sign in as a school visitor before walking around campus. If the principal is there, introduce yourself-smile and be friendly. If your child has any special needs for learning, is gifted, or requires any unusual accommodations,locate the school counselor, administrator, or specialist in that area and set up an appointment so you know your child's needs will be met immediately. Make sure that all your medical records and phone contact numbers are up-to-date and correct. Ask about his class schedule and when you can get a copy. Visit the school's website to get the school supply list for each teacher, if available, as well as other important information about the school. About a week before school starts, ease your child out of the casual summer vacation time schedule and into the school bedtime and morning routines. By getting used to the change in the time schedule before school starts, your child will be eager, ready, and less stressed when it's time to go-and so will you.
Tip: Extra Tip for Older Children:
Talk to your child about taking on the responsibility of getting prepared for school. Show your child how to set the alarm clock for the new hours and advise him to begin the schedule for getting up and going to bed a week before school begins to better understand what is expected. Even when your child takes responsibility for getting ready for the school year, however, you still need to check that everything is in order. If you let him know how proud you are for taking on that job and following through, he will start the year with the right attitude and will be well prepared. Remember, you are the parent and your input and guidance are still extremely important.
Take your child for a practice ride or walk prior to the first day of school. Show your child the safest route to school. Create a safe haven if an emergency occurs. Talk about what to do and where to be if stormy weather occurs. Find out when and where there is adult supervision before and after school hours in case you decide to change the method your child uses for transportation. You may want to schedule a meeting with the teacher during the first week of school for him to get to know you and your child. Bring along Getting to Know My Child (Worksheet #5, page 116).
Shop with your elementary student for school supplies! Let him help make the choices on folders, notebooks, and other supplies. For older children, give them the responsibility for buying what's needed, but be sure to check their purchases and give the final okay. Buy extra supplies for home, such as glue, loose-leaf paper, markers, pen, pencils, and erasers. Back-to-school sale prices are usually excellent and supplies are readily available. Later in the year, not only will the prices be higher, it may not be as easy to find what you need.
Keep extra school supplies on hand so you won't have to go shopping at the last minute when your child runs out.
I Am Recently Divorced and Have Sole Custody of My Child
I recently got divorced and received sole custody of my child. My ex-husband moved out of state and I have not seen him since the divorce. I recently heard he is back in town. I am afraid that he will try to take my child from school. Worse yet, he has threatened to do this. What should I do?
If you are separated, estranged, or divorced, you want to avoid having the school become Involved in personal family conflicts. In many cases, the court specifies in the official court document which parent has custody of the child. If you have joint/shared custody, the document will state the adult who is the residential parent and who is the custodial parent. The residential parent is the parent whom the child lives with. In many cases, this is the parent who registers the child in school and fills out the necessary emergency information. Always present official court documents and communicate in person with the school principal when dealing with sensitive issues. Always keep your child's welfare uppermost in your thoughts and actions.
Before the first day of school, call the school and make an appointment with the principal. At the meeting bring the official court document that says that you have sole custody of your child. Make sure that you give the principal all of your emergency contact numbers. The official school emergency information card will always have a place where you put who is allowed to take your child during the school day in case of emergency or illness. This person will have to show a picture identification before the child will be released. By letting the principal know of your situation, she will be able to alert the teachers and the school staff, as well as flag your child's records. When filling out the official school information card, make sure you put in bold letters that your child's father is NOT allowed to see or take your child. Once again, the school principal should have a system with the front office and the teachers to keep the child safe when situations such as these occur.
My Child Does Not Speak English
We just moved to the United States from South America. My son is having a hard time learning the English language. My husband and I are concerned that we will have difficulty communicating with the school. What should I do?
Get to know your child's guidance counselor; he can serve not only as a liaison between you, your child, and other school personnel, but can also assist your child with the adjustment issues he will most likely be facing. Ask if the school district has a program for adults to learn English. Learning English with your child can be a very positive experience. It will show your child that you value learning and education. Learning is a lifelong experience.
When you visit the school, ask a person who speaks both your language and English to accompany you and act as your interpreter. Have your interpreter take notes in your native language on the important points of your meeting so you can have this information handy at any time. At the school, ask which staff members you should see when you need help with certain problems, such as: academic assistance for your child, bus schedules, medical information, and notices to be translated. Explain that you want to support your child and the school, but until you learn to communicate on your own, you would like to get as much help as possible. Use Who's Who at the School (Worksheet #3, page 114) to assist you. Ask what services are available to both of you. Repeat everything to make sure the interpreter relayed all of your concerns. Ask for a contact person at the school and introduce yourself so you will feel comfortable calling her with your questions. Have your child attend the conference with you so he understands that there are people at the school to whom he can go when he needs help. Set up a time when he can meet all of the school personnel who can assist him. This is important so he will know where and when to find them. You may want to ask if there is a student from the same country at the school who may be able to be your child's buddy until your son gets more proficient in English. They may become good friends as well.
My Child's Friend Is a Bad Influence
My daughter made friends with another classmate last year who became a bad influence. My daughter had always been a good student and had never gotten into trouble. By the end of the school year, she had failed a class and had been in the principal's office several times. Problems occurred not only in school, but also after school when she got together with this girl. I do not want her having any contact with this child and am concerned that they will again be in class together. What should I do?
Tip: Elementary Middle/High: Before school starts, make an appointment with the principal or assistant principal and talk about your concerns. Ask that your daughter not be placed in the same class/classes as this child. At this meeting you should give an example of an actual incident that happened with your daughter last year that made you come to this decision. This will help explain your position. If necessary, ask the administrator to pull up your daughter's behavior records and final grades as documentation of the problem. Be polite, but firm, as you insist that it's essential that she not be in the same classroom. Even if the school staff does make the necessary changes, continue to monitor her. Work with the school counselor and set up some clear boundaries at home. A good suggestion is to have your daughter sign a behavior contract with you stressing the outcomes you would like to see happen. Use the Behavior Contract on page 72. Prepare the contract with the school counselor and present it as a team effort. Make sure to establish clear consequences if any of the rules are broken. Explain to your daughter what you are doing and why. Make it clear that you feel this is necessary even though she may not agree. You, as the parent, have not only the right but the responsibility to make this decision. Talk to her about developing other friendships and learning better decision-making skills. You also need to discuss the importance of not forming negative habits and behaviors, regardless of what others may be doing. Express the fact that she alone is responsible for her behavior and its positive or negative consequences in her life. You may also want to establish a relationship with the school counselor who can give you resources and assistance for further help with your child. Parents also need to take responsibility in working with the school and setting boundaries with their children. Bad habits and behaviors left unchecked can have serious, long-lasting results.
My Child Is Gifted and I Want Her Placed in the Gifted Program
My child has always received A's and schoolwork seems to be extremely easy for her. The teacher agrees with me. I need to make sure the school places her in a class that will challenge her. What should I do?
Once school begins, set up a conference with the teacher. Explain that you understand from comments on all of her school papers and report cards that your child is doing extremely well, and that all test scores show she is ahead of her grade level in reading and math. Bring in the previous two years' report cards to show the consistency of this trend. Ask the teacher what services the school provides for the children who are consistently ahead of their class. If there is a gifted program, ask what you can do to get her tested for placement. Talk to your child and make sure she is comfortable with a new classroom and placement. Many children may do well when allowed to go at their own pace, yet become stressed and perform below their ability when pushed to do more. Ask also whether the school's gifted program will take children away from the regular classroom part-time, and make sure your child is not penalized for the work she misses while participating in the gifted program, if that is the case.
Once school begins, speak with the team of teachers your child has and ask how they view your child's academic ability. If they all agree that your child excels in academics, ask how you go about testing her for placement in more advanced classes or the gifted program. Ask about the program and the process for evaluating your daughter. Become informed on your child's rights for being tested in a timely fashion. Talk to your child and make sure she feels comfortable going into an honors course or Advanced Placement classroom. Ask the school counselor or administrator about "dual enrollment" type programs, which allow your child to attend high school and college at the same time. This can give your child confidence, knowing she can succeed at that level, but make sure that your child is emotionally ready. You do not want to add unnecessary stress and pressure.
Seek assistance. Recognize that your child has certain talents. Capitalize on her interests and create an environment enriched with materials that will challenge her and encourage exploration. You may need to increase your knowledge in those areas where your child shows an interest. Learn together and search out people and places that will increase your child's capabilities and learning enthusiasm. Recognize that your child learns at her own pace. Some children excel when given greater challenges; others do not.
My Child Is Failing at a High-Performing School
We specifically moved to a new neighborhood last year with the best school in the area. This school has won many national awards of distinction and had the highest test scores in the state last year. However, my child did not do well and received two F's on his report card. With the new school year about to begin, I am concerned he is falling behind. What should I do?
Even though the school that your child attends may be rated high academically, it is extremely important that you monitor your child individually and not assume that he will be successful. A school's high academic rating does not necessarily translate into your child succeeding. Advocate on his behalf. Ask what is being done to help your child become successful. No matter what your child's level is, even if he is in special education classes or has Limited English Proficiency, make sure he is making adequate yearly progress. This means that he is steadily learning, improving, and moving forward in his educational experience.
Excerpted from Parent Talk! by Cheli Cerra Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.