Friday, February 4, 2011

Back to school

The kids have gone back to school this week. Mr 7 is now in Year 3 and Miss 5 is in Reception.

Each year I find it helpful to think about what the school year may hold and how we will be involved. As with all things we need to make wise decisions about the amount of time we can give to the school. If we stay in this area, we will have kids at this school for 12 years - it's the main thing in the community that we can be involved in for the long term.

Here are some thoughts:

1. Get to know their teachers

This has been a wonderful blessing in the last few years - the teachers have been lovely and I felt we were 'on the same page' when dealing with any issues that arose. I try to get to know them personally, ask about their families, weekends, etc, so that not every conversation we had was about my child.

I am coming to realise that this is not what parents generally do. Each year, teachers have thanked us for being so supportive of them and the class. We just thought we were taking an interest, but apparently it stands out.

2. Figure out how to be involved in the school community

We still find this one hard, as our lives are already so busy. I like to listen to reading when I can, but it doesn't always work out. My suspicion is that this one will be a little easier when all 3 are at school.

I ended up on a committee last year, which was a small commitment, but had great benefits in getting to know the principal much better. That was definitely worth it.

Husband has been on school council for 2 years, but will have to step down this year. He struggled to get to the meetings, as his calendar is as fixed and rigid as the school's is!

3. Get to know the children in the class

I have found this is the main benefit of listening to reading - I meet almost all the children and they all know whose Mum I am. I am able to understand some of the class dynamics a little more, and I can encourage certain friendships.

I have realised this is going to be harder the older they get. I will not be listening to reading for Year 3 and so I will lose that link with the class.

4. Get to know the parents and families of the children in the class

This is easier in the first few years of school, but gets much harder later. Sadly, the chance to get to know the families of Mr 7''s class is probably over - if we don't know them now, we probably won't.

We will still put effort into the relationships made with parents in the last 6 months of the year with Miss 5's new class. As they are all in reception again this year, we have another year with little ones, where most parents will come in to pick up and drop off.

Over the years we have hosted a coffee evening, plays at the park and a morning tea to try to meet parents. We need to figure out what to do this year - a morning tea, very early in the term, seems to work best.

I have realised that you only tend to see up to half of the parents regularly anyway. Some children come from and go to Out of Hours care, some are dropped off by parents never entering the school, and some probably walk on their own. Also, so many mothers work at least part-time that even organising something during the day is difficult.

As I have noted other years, our school has a lot of immigrant families, who do not seem to be openly welcomed by the Australian parents. I think this is an area where we could try to be different and seek to get to know those families.

There are two areas I think we can be of help here. Firstly, just being friendly - some of these women are so lonely, they are here for their husband's study or work, they do not have work visas and they are looking after children in a foreign country all on their own. Secondly, just being helpful - there is a certain culture to a school, which takes everyone some time to figure out. (eg. if you grew up in an Australian primary school, you know how to fill out a lunch order on a paper bag, pay for it and tell your child how to get it to the canteen - does anyone from any other nation do this though? Help explain it.)

It's the people who aren't already connected in that we can watch out for.

5. Pray for the school

Obviously we pray for the school, students, teachers and families personally.

However, we also have a prayer group for school mothers which has been going for a few years. We are excited to realise that 2 new Christian families will be attending our school this year, so hopefully our prayer group will grow a little too.

What do you need to think about when the school year starts for you?

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