During back to school time parents often find many questions racing through their minds. If your child is entering a new school, this list can be rather long as you aren’t yet familiar with the basic procedures of the new school. Most schools offer a Meet the Teacher event so that parents have the opportunity to ask a lot of these questions prior to the first day of school.
As a parent and a former classroom teacher I’ve collected a list of questions that are helpful for parents to ask during Meet the Teacher. Please note many teachers will prepare a welcome packet to hand out during the event. If so, take a moment to glance through the packet while you are visiting the classroom. Many of the answers to your questions will likely be inside the packet. If they are not, feel free to ask these questions to make the most of your visit during Meet the Teacher.
Questions to Ask
Of course you will ask what classroom your child is in and the name of your child’s teacher (and any assistants in the classroom, if applicable), but you knew that already!
Find out what the arrival routine is on campus. Depending on how your child will arrive to school in the morning, where does the child go first to wait for class to start? This can sometimes be outside the classroom, outside a main building, in a cafeteria or other waiting area. What time can your child arrive on campus? Adult supervision will not likely start until a specific time. If you need your child to arrive a little before school begins, be sure there will be adults supervising arrival at that time. Otherwise plan for an alternate arrival time or other supervision.
Some schools provide breakfast. If you would like your child to eat breakfast on campus, ask whether breakfast is provided. If so, what time should your child arrive in order to have time to eat breakfast? And what are the costs and payment procedures for breakfast?
Ask any questions you have about lunch. What time will kids eat lunch (this will help you know whether a larger breakfast is needed)? If your child is bringing a boxed lunch, are there any restraints on what is allowed to be brought to school? If your child is buying lunch, what is the procedure for paying? Can you access the lunch menu from home so you know what is served each day?
Some classes have a snack during the day depending on the length of the day and when lunch is served. Find out whether your child will have snack. If so, is it something you need to pack individually, or do families donate items for a group snack?
What is the specials schedule? What days of the week will your child go to P.E., music, art, or other special area classes? This will help your child make appropriate clothing decisions. If your child has P.E. the first day of school, maybe those fancy new dress shoes aren’t the best option.
Find out about the dismissal procedures. This is a big one! You want to make sure your child gets home safely, and so does your child’s teacher. Find out when and where your child will be dismissed. Ask whether younger kids will be escorted to specific dismissal areas. If you are walking or driving to pick up your child, find out where you need to be. Some schools have separate car lines for different grade levels. They also have meeting locations for walkers and bike riders. Find out where these locations are, so you are in the right place. If your child is a bus rider, be sure you know when and where to pick up your child and what number to call if your child does not arrive as expected. (Note that bus information will likely be provided by someone other than your child’s teacher. It may be the front office or a transportation office for your school district, so this may be something you find out outside of Meet the Teacher.)
Other Helpful Things to Do
In addition to asking the questions above, you can take a few additional steps to help your child feel comfortable in the classroom and ready to start the first day. While in classroom help your child get to know the classroom layout by finding his or her seat, the bathroom, the sink for washing hands, a storage area for backpacks and lunchboxes (if applicable), and any other special locations in the classroom. If there are other kids in the room at the same time, try to help kids say hello to others and meet new friends.
Snap a picture of your child and his or her teacher. Not only with this be a special keepsake, it’s also a great way to help your child remember what the teacher looks like. If Meet the Teacher is on Thursday or Friday, and school doesn’t start until Monday, then that picture can come in handy as a refresher.
As you leave take a picture of the classroom door (and any landmark spots along path to classroom). Use these pictures to talk with your child about the path he or she will take to get to the classroom each day.
You probably noticed that the majority of these questions are related to basic needs…arriving to school, eating, and departing from school. For the first couple days of school these are likely the most important factors. As long as kids are able to get to and from school safely and eat, the teachers will take care of all the details of learning classroom procedures and easing into the academic routine. Getting this basic information prior to school starting will ease both your anxiety as a parent and some of the anxiety your child may be feeling about the first day. If kids know what to expect, they are often more comfortable on the first day of school.
As school gets going you will likely have more questions about academics, curriculum, and your child’s individual progress. These questions are best addressed at upcoming events like Open House or parent-teacher conferences.
Did I miss anything? Parents, what else do you find out during Meet the Teacher? Teachers, what questions do you hear a lot that are helpful for parents to know?