I’m handing over to Ngaire Stirling of Brisbane Kids for her great guidance on how to help a teacher get to know your child.
As the new school year approaches, so does the reality of a new teacher for your child. For many parents, this can be an anxious time and for others a time of new opportunity and potential. There is definitely the hope that the new teacher will begin the year with a good understanding of your child, but is this always the case?
When a child is allocated a new teacher you can expect there will be some notes made by the prior teacher.
This might include some information via reporting and documentation, possibly a behavioural record and sometimes some feedback on their learning and special needs. When done properly a typical student handover is a great start.
The limitations of this handover come about mainly because there is no standard process.
As a parent, you have no idea what is communicated about your child from the former to the current teacher.
In truth, this mysterious handover could be missing important information and it could be skewed. In some cases, it may not even happen.
Early days in the classroom
In the first few weeks of each school year, you may find it difficult to spend any meaningful time with your child’s new teacher.
This is to be expected considering how many kids occupy a classroom and the finite number of minutes outside teaching times. It is also worth noting that some teachers don’t open their classrooms daily to parents at all, especially in the upper primary years.
For some parents, the first time they might speak to their child’s teacher individually is during parent-teacher interviews mid to late term one.
Friends of mine in this position have mentioned that they felt like some of the concerns mentioned in the meetings could have been easily addressed had the teacher been equipped with more information about their child and family from the beginning.
With the above limitations in mind, as a parent, one has to ask, is there a better way to help your child’s new teacher get to know your child?
Helping a teacher to know your child
The Student Profile is a simple one-page introduction to a new student designed to support teachers in their role.
It is meant to complement any existing handover procedures. At it’s best and used effectively, it will give your child’s teacher a headstart in better understanding and getting to know your child.
Initially, this was a process undertaken as a transition tool by my local kindergarten.
Over the years this has been re-modelled by more than one special needs therapist in different forms to help support my children who have special needs.
That said, I think it is a concept that should be used for all children, especially during the early and primary years of schooling.
The Student Profile
Section 1: A Profile Image. A picture of your child is included to make it easier for your child’s teacher to visually identify your child. It also humanises what is a fairly generic document outline.
Section 2: Siblings. This obviously helps build a picture for the teacher in terms of youngest and eldest. It’s all about relationship building.
Section 3: Personal Qualities. What is great about your child? Are they kind, are they funny? What positive qualities will they bring to the classroom and to their friendships?
Section 4: Learning Strengths. What do you know about your child’s learning strengths? Do they have a vivid imagination? Do they love to draw or perhaps they have an amazing memory?
Section 5: What Do They Like? This can cover anything from animals to drawing to science. It’s just a nice way for a teacher to know what your child enjoys doing or something that really fascinates them and can help build rapport.
Section 6: What Do They Dislike? This section might include anything from them having a dislike of maths or cold weather. Handy things to know.
Section 6 Challenges. This section isn’t intended to replace the expertise of a teacher but rather just let the current teacher know what you know, your child has challenges with which may include tests, sitting still for long periods of time and perhaps making friends.
Section 7. Hopes And Dreams. This is about your hopes for the year ahead. In my case, it is always that they are happy and have friendships but yours might include learning the alphabet or enjoying school. It’s really up to you.
Section 8: Diagnosis/Allergies. This section is not to replace any official documents or alerts but it’s still a handy inclusion when giving the full picture of your child. Prior to my son’s official diagnosis, I may have been inclined to write “suspected autism”. (This section is often at the top of the page and you can move it up if you prefer).
Section 9. Other Helpful Info. This is just for general comments. Perhaps you are a FIFO worker, or your child has just lost their grandparent. Keep it brief but include the most important things that paint a picture of your child’s current family life. I always include pets in this section because our pets are important to my child.
Things to keep in mind:
Keep the student profile brief
This should be a one-page introduction only. Stick to the most important information and don’t overdo it. It is not meant to add to the teacher’s workload. You can certainly reword the sections but don’t make it longer than one page.
You know your child best but…
It goes without saying you know your child best, better than anyone.
Equally though, you also have some bias (which is only natural) and so you do need to be mindful of letting the teacher teach. Always be willing to discuss and reflect on any input given including the possibility of your own outdated perceptions about your children.
Example: One of my children was showing a pattern of not reacting well under pressure, as evidenced by their unwillingness to complete writing tasks (despite having an above average ability). So of course, I added this worry to his profile. Fortuitously his teacher chose to understand the concern but also looked for new ways to stretch him from his comfort zone in a less burdensome way. She achieved this by allocating assignments that were relevant and interesting to him and the results were quite astounding in turning the refusal around.
Benefits to you as a parent
You will find that completing the profile annually helps you to refocus on each child individually and reassess where they are at and where they are going and often how far they have come.
If you are provided with an email as the best contact method for the teacher, this is how you would send it. Otherwise just hand over a printed copy and say, could you give this a read later, I just thought it might help. No pressure, no expectations.
It is quite extraordinary, how one person, unfamiliar to you, can have such influence on the life of your child. When you consider further the temporary nature of this relationship, it is mind-boggling that society needs any reminder as to the importance of their profession.
The student profile is simply another tool which they can add to their extensive teaching toolbox and will hopefully help them in better getting to know your child.
You can download your free Printable Student Profile from my Resource Library here:
- 10 Back to School Tips for Parents
- How to tell if your Child is Ready for School
- What to Pack in a School Bag + Free School Bag Checklist
PIN THIS POST:
Do you have tips on how to help a teacher get to know your child?