It’s the start of a new year, and as a parent that typically means paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork. Dates to put on the calendar; events to prep for; and, a syllabus of your child’s upcoming course work.
But here’s the thing—as much as we dread that paperwork in elementary school, it’s even more disconcerting not to receive it at all—which is what many middle school parents soon discover.
The differences between elementary and middle school can be jarring and one of the most acute for parents is we start feeling like we are completely out of the loop, communication wise. Here’s why the communication chain often gets broken and tips for middle school parents to stay in the know.
Three Reasons You Feel Out of Touch
- Your child now has numerous teachers, so sending a quick email to find out the scoop can be a hassle.
- There’s no more backpack mail or other communication that the school pushes to you. You’re probably rarely in the school building anymore, so those flyers and other in-school communication will be invisible to you.
- This minimal communication also coincides with the fact that middle schoolers typically become less communicative than in the past.
Six Tips to Get Back in the Know
But don’t despair. Here are six ways you can stay “in the know” as your child enters middle school.
- Head to the school website. This is where you’ll find the calendar, school polices, daily schedule, etc. Your school might mail them out with schedules, but many schools expect you to find it on your own.
- Register for the listserv or school email list. Email is usually the number one way schools communicate, but many parents don’t realize that they have to proactively go and sign up. Some schools even have separate email groups for different grade levels, or for the parent organization, so make sure you’ve signed up for all the updates that are relevant to your child.
- Make a copy of your child’s schedule to get a handle on classes and teachers. Go back to the website and see if the teachers have their own personal blog where you can find out what they did in class, check assignment details and keep up on due dates. You don’t want to do this task completely for your child, but it’s good to know what’s coming up.
- Email the teachers and introduce yourself. With six or more teachers, it’s a lot harder to get to personally know them, the way you did with your child’s one main elementary school teacher. Your child might have six teachers and each teacher can have more than 150 students. The solution? A quick introductory email will distinguish you as a parent who is on top of it and wants to know if or when there are issues with classwork.
- Find out how grades are recorded. Most schools have an online grading system that allows you to check test scores and assignments. This can be addictive! There’s no need to helicopter by checking in every day, but it’s wise to check in every week or so with your child to make sure he is on track and ready to make a course correction with extra assistance if needed, before any small issues become big issues.
- Get involved. Yes, there seems to be a lot less need for hands-on parental involvement than in elementary school, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Most schools have a parent organization that would love assistance. Don’t fret if you can’t attend meetings; there are always ways you can contribute other times. Field trips still need chaperones. Many schools have parent chat events or “meet the principal” evenings. Make every effort to be involved in ways big or small.
As your child gets older your relationship with her and her school will evolve too, but following these tips will always keep you in the know!