Thursday, August 23, 2012

Staring school - advice from a primary school teacher

Getting ready for the first day at school?

Joan Catherall has been a reception class teacher for ten years. Her favourite subject is maths. She loves school trips, hates paperwork, and drinks coffee from one of her collection of best teacher in the world mugs every morning.

Joan has seen hundreds of 4 and 5 year olds arrive for their first day of school. Sshe is devoted to helping kids get the most from school and she is also my mum's best friend, so when I asked her, Joan generously agreed to share her wisdom about how parents can best help prepare their children for school.

Q Joan, what is the hardest change children experience when they start school?

Joan: Obviously it's different for every child starting school, but I have found that lots of children struggle with tiredness even if they been at nursery full time. So an earlier bedtime is often helpful in the first few weeks. I often find that children with lots of after school activities struggle the most.

Q What happens during the first few weeks of school for new receptioners?

The first few weeks should be mainly about settling the children happily, and introducing them to school conventions.

Q What misconceptions are most common for children and their parents about starting school?

That they will start reading immediately. They will be doing lots of pre-reading activities, but the main purpose of the first few weeks is to make sure that they are enjoying school to enable them to become motivated learners. Some parents believe that all the children do is play, but these activities will be structured and purposeful. It is important that parents talk to their children about school in a positive way-even if they don't get much response!

Q Which children get on best with school when they first start?

Those children whose parents have talked to them about school beforehand. Try to avoid, though, going on and on about "Big School" in the summer holidays as some children can be quite nervous about this.

Q What should children know how to do before they start school?

Dress and undress for PE, go to the toilet independently, and for boys be able to use a urinal!

Q What can go wrong?

Parental anxiety can transmit itself very easily to the child and make them tearful and clingy. Starting school is a huge step for both parents and children and teachers are sensitive to this.

Q Why do you love being a reception class teacher Joan?

I love developing relationships with parents and children, and guiding the children to becoming self-motivated and independent learners. I get a great sense of pride at the end of the summer term when I see the children behaving so confidently, and fully integrated with the rest of the school. It's fantastic to see how much they have achieved in one short year, both academically and socially.

Q What can parents do to support their children?

Develop a good relationship with the school so that the children are well aware that this is a three-way partnership. Spend quality time with the children, either sharing books, hearing reading or playing maths and phonics games. Always keep lines of communication open.

Thanks Joan, and good luck everyone with the first day of school!

1 comment:

  1. As a fellow primary school teacher, I agree 100% with everything above. Lots of this applies to older children returning to school after the long holidays!
    As parents, the best thing we can do for our children is to spend quality time interacting with them- in physical activity, chatting and encouraging them into new experiences. The children I see thriving further through school are generally those with encouragement and support at home!
    Good luck to all for the start of school- I know I am looking forward to it (with some trepidation!) as I return to full time class teaching after having Jacob :) Hope it is a happy and successful time for all.