I don’t want to brag, but I have over 4 weeks left until summer is officially over for me! I can brag though, because I have been teaching this summer. Anyway, many teachers are already heading back (best of luck to you and you can laugh at me in June when I am still teaching). I thought that a little series on heading back to school was in order. Also, it gives me a reason to get moving and start getting organized! So today we will start with:
What do parents need to know? (Primary Grade Focus)
Getting all my letters updated seems to be the thing I always start with. I think it’s because as a kindergarten teacher, there is A LOT of information that parents need/want so they feel calmer sending their babies off to school all day! I also meet all the parents BEFORE the first day of school for Kindergarten Orientation. I distribute lots of information then.
Some things are laid out for you (schedule, room, etc.) and other things you get to decide (show and tell, seating arrangements, handling supplies/snack). You need to make many of those decisions now and be prepared to stick with them! Some things to share with parents early in the school year are:
#1: How are you handling snack?
- I have them send one in about once each month for the class to share. That way I always have snack for anyone who wants one. Individual snacks get forgotten and I end up providing them all year and the snack calendar is a nightmare to make and people always forget (but that is just my humble opinion). If you have the space to store them, put it on the calendar and enough people will remember giving you time to remind everyone else!
- Give them ideas for what to send in (and you will still end up with Oreos each month). You can at least ask for healthy snacks, give them some ideas as to how much, and inform them of any food allergies.
- Put any other needs on that supply list next time. I often get coffee filters that I use to line small plastic bowls for snacks that are not individually packaged. The bowls came in 4-packs from the dollar store and keep them from spilling all the time! We eat on the carpet typically or while students are completing centers.
- Make a copy of mine below and change it to suit your needs!
#2 How are you handling birthdays and celebrations?
- First, what is the school policy? At our school, we are able to celebrate anything and everything (We have a Christmas sing along and a Halloween parade every year with all students K-5)! I am sensitive to differing beliefs and I let parents know about all this up front. We do make alternate arrangements when needed.
- For birthdays, I let parents know at the start of the year what I typical birthday looks like in school. No candles, no balloons! We have sing happy birthday, have a treat, and move on with our day. I am flexible with the celebration time due so parents can come if they want to! Somebody will still bring balloons and the most annoying noise-makers you have ever heard. I recommend saving celebrations until the end of the day.
- Also, it is good to have a policy for outside birthday parties. If you are not inviting everyone, please mail invitations. I give parents an opportunity to share their information with the class (see the next post on gathering information).
- For other celebrations I have sign-ups in mid-September at Parent Information Night (think: Open House without kids and a mini-presentation). I used to have a room parent, but I am a control freak sometimes. Now I have parents sign up and post it in a google doc on our website. I also send an email reminder a week before with more details. I keep my parties simple!
Grab a copy of my letter here if you want to use it as a template!
#3 When are important things happening?
- Parents need to be kept in the loop and I do this online as much as possible. I have a Google Site where I post important reminders and weekly updates. I also have an embedded Google calendar that parents can check and/or subscribe to. I am planning to get better about printing it each month as well.
- Daily specials are sent home on a sheet at the beginning of the year and put on the calendar. This year we have a rotating schedule (not the days of the week), so it will be more confusing when to where sneakers. I also share the time (and lunch time) so parents know
- I put as much on the calendar as I can (using the district calendar) before school begins. It is super easy to update throughout the year.
#4 How will you be communicating?
- Kindergarten parents are especially nervous, so I let them know all the ways they will be hearing about what is going on and how to reach me. I prefer email and only go to phone calls when it is more immediate or I don’t want something lost in translation. I have had some parents that only communicate via text and I do that if I have to. I don’t give out my number to everyone, but some end up with it if I call from mine. I try to draw that line a little…
- I mentioned my Google Site and I use that a lot. I create an email group and send a weekly reminder to read our classroom blog that I update on the weekend. I provide a direct link and important reminders right in my email. I am able to print the info for any parents without email.
- SeeSaw is number one on my list this year. I am working on getting our school to buy in, so parents and kids have access year after year. For more info, check out my post about it. I will be having parents sign up at Parent Info night this year, so I can help!
- Other teachers have found success with Twitter, Instagram, Private Facebook groups, Remind app, and more! Find what works for you and your parents. Make sure it is something you can stick with and don’t do too many get overwhelmed!
#5 All that other stuff!
- There are lots of little tips, policies and more that you probably should share. Don’t worry if you forget to share them from day one. Those are great things to throw in the newsletter, on a note, or on the webpage. You will need to send reminders about all these things anyway! I was a kindergarten PARENT last year and I saw it from the other perspective. It’s hard to remember it all!
- School policies should be shared from the school (arrival/dismissal, attendance policies, pick-up procedures), however, gentle reminders from you are the best way to start if any of these become problems! You should know who to go to with questions and concerns!
- I made an ABCs of Kindergarten as a cute and easy way to share some of the little stuff. I got this idea on Pinterest and there is a freebie to customize yourself (that I did not make)! I made my own and love how it turned out. If anything, it will give you more ideas for those tricky letters!
Be prepared for questions (some crazy ones too) and lots more reminders throughout the year. I make a reminder to go along with most letters and save it in the same folder. My snack reminders are always copied on colored paper and ready to go home with anyone who forgot on snack days!
Copy them all, but send less important ones home later! Too much at once is overwhelming!
Make the information bulleted and concise so it actually gets read! (Can you tell I need to work on that?)
Save the letters in a folder (I have a Parent Letters folder and then folders for each month in that.) I am slowly starting to organize these all into Google Drive and saving them as Google Docs. I can update them from anywhere and don’t need to worry about not having the latest version!