preparing for the first day of school
Last week I was shopping at Walmart, I actually had a few precious moments to myself and was enjoying looking at make-up, picking out some yummy snacks and then I saw them…back to school supplies. Folders, glue sticks, scissors, you know the drill. My heart started racing as I thought about all I still have to do to get Luke ready for his first day. Good thing I have my tried and true steps to take to alleviate some of the anxiety. It’s time to start planning! Remember, baby steps, do a little each day and you will feel empowered and ready for the first day of school!
Organize & Review Your Paperwork-Let’s start with the organization. What paperwork, you ask? I know, there is SO MUCH paperwork. I keep Luke’s last 2 signed IEPs, progress on goals from the last school year and ESY, any amendments, the most current assessments, last year’s report cards, work samples and any important communication with the teacher/school/district including emails. See photo above of my binder with color coded tabs for easy access. Remember to bring this information to any meetings you have during the school year for reference and to let your team know you are one prepared parent! Take some time to re-familiarize yourself with your child’s IEP goals, accommodations, services and the progress they made last year. I read over everything and it never takes me longer than a couple hours total over 2-3 days. Remember…baby steps:) Be sure to write down any questions you have after looking through everything as that will be important information to have when you reach out to your child's teacher.
“About Me”-I love creating and updating these sheets! Take a look at Luke’s sheet below. You can add any important info that you want to make sure everyone who works with your child knows and understands. Don’t include too much info from your IEP, this is meant to be an at a glance list of the most pertinent information.
Prep Your Child Ahead of Time-I start doing drive bys of Luke’s school & I even pull in the parking lot to remind him of where we will be doing morning drop-offs. We’ve had a couple teachers who have done quick FaceTime calls with Luke a few days ahead of time. This is a huge bonus, but not all teachers can or will do this and that’s ok, but you can ask. Pull up all the photos you have of your child’s teacher/staff or some activities/events you caught on camera from last year. Start discussions about these people and events. Make sure they are positive memories:) Google free social stories on YouTube. Put in keywords such as “first day of school” or “making new friends.” There are lots of options so make sure you find the right one for your child. Lastly, if you are in contact or have the contact information for a classmate or 2, reach out and get together before the first day. We’ve met friends at a park, had them to our house or even set up a FaceTime when all else fails. The point here is to do as much as you are comfortable with before school starts.
Network with Other Parents-some of you will be more comfortable than others doing this so pick what works for you but now may be a good time to check parent pages on social media. Most schools have a parent group. Or, text a parent you know to chat prior to the first day. One year I did this and ended up getting an invite to grab coffee with her and a few parents I didn't know. I learned a lot of information about staff and administration changes, classes, curriculum, etc. and met a few pretty cool parents as well. Do your best to sort gossip from facts, but information is good and you can add to your list of questions for my next step.
Reach Out to Your Teacher/Principal/District Office Ahead of Time-ask if you and your child can meet their teacher before the first day which can be overwhelming for many students. We have always been able to work out a time to do this. Remember it’s all about how you ask. Request a short visit to say hello during a time when your teacher is already scheduled to be in the classroom, maybe the week before school starts. Staff is back to start getting the room ready, lesson planning and for professional development and meetings, so it’s a busy time for sure but even a few minutes to say hi, see the class and maybe even their desk could be very helpful! Most district employees are back as well so email any questions you have to your program specialist or principal, especially if you or your teacher are new to the school. This is also a great time to share your About Me sheet as well.
Registration/Class Assignment Day-take advantage of registration or some elementary schools invite families to find out who their teacher will be the day before school starts. This is a great time to visit with friends and talk with other parents. Secondary schools may have school clubs and the PTA set up to get information or join as well.
Again, these are a few tips that have helped our family prepare for the first day. You don’t have to do them all, but I hope a few of them will work for you and your child!
I’d love to hear other ideas or tips that have helped your family, so please share in the comments section!
I wish all families a good first day!
Watch my video below and join me on Thursday, August 3rd at 10 am
PST to review these tips on how to get yourself and your child with an IEP ready for the first day of school! Register at blueglassesadvocacy.com