Change is hard. Period. Adults, especially, have a hard time breaking habits, accepting a new job or responsibility, and trusting new people or ways. We are creatures of habit. We don’t want to change. We like what we like and we are sometimes resistant to even good changes.
It’s the unknown that can feel scary or just uncomfortable. We don’t always want to put in the extra effort or work to get somewhere new. Kids also like routines and comfort but are more adaptable and flexible. (It’s no coincidence that I prefer to work with kids versus adults!). Unlike adults, kids aren’t as resistant. In fact, kids can amaze me with their resiliency, openness, and even excitement for change!
Take me for example. Last year, I was moved from working at a school I loved. This change was out of my control and not what I wanted, as well as being a surprise right after the school year ended and summer was starting. I was personally insulted and angered that my feelings were not taken into consideration. And, I spent many summer weeks mulling over this unwanted change, sulking and complaining. (I am not one to fake my feelings!).
By the time school started at my new school, I had chosen to embrace the change. Dwelling on things we can’t control is a WASTE OF TIME and ENERGY anyway. The new school and staff was great and very different than any school I had worked in. The Administration completely trusted and valued the role of the School Counselor (which is so amazing and uncommon!). And reflecting back, I think I made some positive changes in some children and maybe even added some to the school climate. The year wasn’t wasted and I think I may have even grown a little as a professional.
What does any of this have to do with children and accepting change? Well, the school year is about to start and many have already discovered who their child’s new teacher will be. You might have even figured out some of the kids who will be in their class too. I know that my children did not receive the news they were hoping to hear and there was some disappointment this week . Their class placement is a surprise to me just like it is any parent but I didn’t expect for them to be in class with all their best friends like they did.
I have a unique experience, working as the Counselor in the same school where my children attend. It doesn’t bring any special privileges or opportunities like some might imagine but it does offer me the benefit of having the inside scoop! It also lends to hearing and seeing both sides of an issue or situation, being friends with both teachers and parents, as well as knowing many kids on a more personal level. So, it’s great and very helpful even to me personally as a parent. I see inner-workings of the school while realizing what allows students to succeed. It’s at this time of the summer, before we about to embark on something new, that we, as parents, can help set the tone for the year. I hope this helps you, your child, and your child’s teacher build a relationship that’s symbiotic, positive, and productive this school year!
Your child was placed in their class with intention. There is a reason that not all of his/her friends are in there too. It will be o.k. Don’t complain and sulk along with your child. This is an opportunity to talk about forming new relationships. This is a chance to talk to your kid about how people change. Children are capable of changing and their behavior doesn’t define them so just because your child didn’t like them or their behavior lasts year doesn’t mean they won’t this year. Encourage your kid to give everyone a chance and explain that they may get to know and even like someone they never expected to like this year. Every school year is a chance to make new friends.
Don’t treat your child like they are better than or won’t have any friends this year just because your neighbors aren’t in their class. Don’t act like your child is a good kid from a good family just because you don’t know some of the other families. (We are all crazy behind our own front doors anyway!). Not only be open but tell your child it’s going to be exciting to make new friends and get to know people better no matter where they live, who they live with, or what they look like.
Stop judging a teacher before your child even steps in the door. Even at small schools, or especially at smaller schools, teachers are talked about and gain a reputation. Many times, it’s just rumors or based on isolated incidents. Sometimes, there is something to it but you never know how your child will fit with this teacher. Just because someone else didn’t like the teacher doesn’t mean your child won’t. Time and time again, you’ll be surprised with whom your child ends up clicking with if you don’t interfere.
Please go into the school year with an open mind. Don’t fuel the rumors if your child is disappointed and gossip about hearing this teacher yells all the time or is always mean. We don’t want to set up our children to have a perception formed before they’ve even had a chance to form their own opinion. It’s so surprising and also exciting to watch our children adapt to new teaching styles and personality types. Talk about setting them up for success in the future. If our kids can adapt and adjust to a completely new personality, think about what that could do for them in the future. We can’t always give them what we think will be the best fit because we just don’t know!
Embrace their teacher no matter what you’ve heard. Embrace their teacher even if you don’t like them. Yes, that’s right. If you think something negative, keep it to yourself because it will not help your child at all. Drop preconceived ideas and model going into the school year with an open mind. (You can’t trust gossip anyway!). And, trust your child’s teacher is teaching because they chose this profession. Unlike many jobs, they chose to work with children and there’s a reason.
Recognize that things aren’t going to always be perfect, and go into the year with a growth mindset. Just don’t be defensive. Your kid (and yes, my kid too) will be making some mistakes. They won’t get 100 on every test, and they may even get in trouble a time or two. Don’t overreact. Don’t sweat the small stuff! Expect that not only is their teacher not perfect but neither is your pride and joy. They will make some mistakes and they are in elementary school. What they make on one test will not matter. What they make on one report card will not stop them from getting into college. And, even sitting out one recess is not the end of the world!
Let the teachers handle it and take their lead. Be supportive of the decisions the teacher makes. And if you don’t agree, communicate with the teacher to understand privately. Don’t jump to also include your child and tell the teacher they are wrong. Follow up at home with your child. And, yes, there are consequences for actions (or lack of) but look at these mistakes as opportunities to change and grow. Adults need to take the blinders off this year and remind ourselves to look at the big picture.
Be forgiving! Sometimes, this takes a pause. Before we react, think about how important this is and whether it’s something you’ll remember or care about in a year.
Let go of little things. If they can’t sit by their best friend at lunch, that’s ok. If they are left out one day on the playground, it’s ok. If they don’t make student council, it’s ok. If your kids see you overreact, they grow entitled and start to believe there is something to be upset about. Let go if your child isn’t always first or the best. Help them move on from insignificant situations while accepting that we all are frustrated or disappointed sometimes.
Be there to listen. Make sure you take the time to ask the right questions and listen to how your kids are doing. Ask how they’re feeling and praise the good choices they make. Use affective statements (which Knox county is beginning to implement county-wide…yay! 🙂 ) to acknowledge how you feel about how your kids are doing and reinforce positive actions.
And, show up…..but not too much! Some teachers like volunteers and some don’t. Some teachers communicate regularly and some only do when necessary. What teachers do not appreciate is no involvement or buy-in and too much involvement, lack of respect, and lack of trust. Don’t email them if your child gets a ‘B’. Don’t schedule a conference because your child had a fight with their best friend this week. Don’t show up for lunch because your child doesn’t have anyone to sit beside. Give your child and teacher the trust that they are capable. Be there but also allow for some space for your child to work through some things creating independence.
Thank you for being there as involved people who care! Thank you for showing up. And, thank you for understanding that working in a school is hard! Thank you for volunteering and supporting our teachers. And, thank you for noticing all the pieces that make a school work. Here’s to new, exciting beginnings!
Your School Counselor and Parent
Your child will adjust to this new school year but will you!? With a balance of support, accountability, trust, and love, it’s going to be a great, imperfect new year!