Ask the Teacher: Concerns about School

The end of the year can be a nerve-racking time as parents and children begin to think about arrangements for the following school year. How can I assist my child to transition smoothly to school for the first time or to a new school? Which teacher will my child be assigned? Will my child have any friends in their new class? Will my child be negatively impacted by a composite class or job-sharing arrangement? These are just a few of the questions that may be worrying parents at this time.
Last month, Inner West Mum of two and primary school teacher Ally posted in the group to give a different perspective on some of these concerns about school – a teacher’s perspective. I chatted further with Ally to glean some further insights into these issues. Here’s what she said.
 
First of all, why did you decide to post in the Inner West Mums group?
As term 4 comes to a close, I started to see posts from concerned mums about school arrangements for next year. I decided to write my own post as I wanted to give a teacher’s insight into these issues. Many parents worry greatly about alternative arrangements, such as composite classes and job sharing, but these can have some fantastic benefits.
 
What advice do you have for those parents who have decided to start their child in Kindergarten in 2017 but are not entirely sure their child is ready?
No one can know for certain how a child will handle starting school. I know many parents spend countless hours, days and even months weighing up the pros and cons of starting their child early at school versus having them at home or in day care for another year. If you have made the daunting decision to send your child and you are concerned that they may not be ready, please speak to your child’s teacher and explain your concerns. There are often programs offered within the school to give your child the additional support they may require. Keep the communication lines open between home and school so that you can support your child in this exciting and challenging new journey.
 
For those children who will be changing schools in 2017, is there anything parents can do to help their child adjust to the new school?
Changing schools can be daunting but children are a lot more resilient than we often give them credit for. For an extra helping hand, try to touch base with some fellow class parents and students and organise play dates or afterschool activities early on. Children will feel much more confident and secure going to school if they know they will be greeted with a friendly face.
Try to get involved in school activities, such as literacy groups, school fetes or excursions. These will help you get to know your child’s classmates and teachers and also provide a good model of active participation for your child. A child is much more inclined to give their new school a go if you show them that you are excited and enthusiastic about the experience.
 
My child had difficulties with aspects of learning or friendships this year. How can I make his or her schooling experience better in 2017?
This is a great question! Firstly, identify your main concerns, academic or social, from this past year and think about the factors that contributed. Speak to your child’s new teacher early on and outline these concerns. Give your child’s teacher time to get to know your child and organise another meeting later in term 1 to discuss. Sometimes a new cohort of classmates or a different teacher can make all the difference with no additional steps required. If you and your child’s teacher are still concerned then together you can come up with a support plan to address the ongoing issues. Getting onto any issues early really helps your child to have the best possible year at school.
 
Increasingly schools are offering their staff flexible work arrangements. We understand that job sharing works well for the teachers, what about students and their families? What are some of the challenges of job-share classes and what are benefits?
This is one of the main concerns raised by my class parents. Job-share classes, if organised well by the school, can be such a wonderful opportunity for the children. It exposes them to different teaching and learning styles and gives them the benefit of all the strengths each teacher brings to the classroom. Two minds are better than one!
One of the main challenges faced in job-share classes is that some students really benefit from the consistency and structure of a single teacher. Thankfully, in the class organisation process, these children are usually identified and are placed in a single-teacher class.
 
What about composite classes? Will my child be negatively impacted by being in a composite class environment?
Composite classes can offer enriched learning opportunities. Children are selected very carefully and it has been predetermined that they would benefit from this type of learning experience. I myself was in a composite class for several years and feel the better person for it.
Composite classes allow children to work with students of different ages, providing peer support to each other. Peer support has been proven to increase the supporting student’s knowledge of the skill or topic as they refine and adjust their understanding when providing guidance to their peers. It’s a win-win!
Composite classes also provide more opportunity for extension as students can work towards the outcomes of the grade above and expand their knowledge through exposure to the additional concepts and topics covered in class. Typically, due to the range of abilities within the class, there will be more differentiated group work. This allows students to become more independent and autonomous learners.
 
What if my child ends up in a class without their best friend or members of their friendship group?
It can be quite upsetting or scary when you first find out that your little one hasn’t been placed with their old mates. Sometimes children need to be separated if they have become too dependent on each other and would benefit from extending their friendship group. It is important for children to associate with a variety of children with different backgrounds, interests and skills. This will enrich your child’s learning experiences and allow them to develop their socialisation skills. It will better enable them to work and communicate with a range of different people – skills they will require in the future, particularly in the workforce. And best of all, they get to make new friends! They can still play with their old friends in the playground. One of my kindy classes from a few years ago (the children are now in Year 5) still get together regularly for playdates as a group!
 
You may also enjoy:
Making Friends at School … with Other Parents

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