Friday, August 19, 2016

New School Year:Welcome Children and Families

A quiet, loving couple and their enthusiastic, computer-loving, inquisitive son sat across from me at the dentist's office. I asked the boy what grade he was going into, and then said "Are you going to fifth grade?" I knew that would get his attention since he was clearly at the primary level of grade school.

I found out that he was going to kindergarten after three years of preschool. His parents, possibly immigrants, confided that they didn't know when school started or what to expect. I asked, "Didn't you read a note or is there a website?" They said that there was no note and no information on the website. I said, "Why don't you stop by the school, introduce yourselves, and ask about start-of-school times and dates." I hope they do that.

After I spoke to this couple I wondered if it's true that there are students and families in communities that haven't received welcome letters, information about school starts, and class lists. I know that the community I work in sends out a number of letters during the summer to alert families about the new school year. I know that our websites provide good information.

Truly wouldn't it be great if the first day of school each year was met with a bit of local anticipation and fanfare. Newspapers could have a countdown and dates on the front page. There could be outreach to neighborhoods, grocery stores, and other places that people frequent.

I suppose this happens, and it could be that new parents who are new to the country, state, or community, may not really know where to turn to get the needed information. As teachers we need to look for ways to welcome the eager, loving families that will send their children to us this year. We also have to find ways to support their children too recognizing that some children will be coming from homes that are distanced from the mainstream school experience. The more we can reach out, the more families and students will reach back.