As our education systems continues through the millennium, our back to school styles must as well. Being a parent today may seem easier – information is much more accessible, feedback on your child is instant, and parents have 24-hour access to students’ grades online and constant access to their children via mobile phones, texts messages and emails.

For parent-teacher-student relationships, these technological advances can be both a blessing and a curse. The key to taking advantage of our 21st century tools is understanding how these tools work from each perspective.

Whether your child is just starting out, transitioning to a new stage in their education or at education’s final stage, teachers understand getting children off to a good start and navigating through the year is never easy.

Here are 10 back to school questions answered..


1) How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

Parents should start a regular bed time schedule with their children two weeks prior to the return of school. Going back to school is tough for everyone: teachers, parents and students. Make sure your child can ease back into a regular schedule without making up for lack of sleep “during class”. More importantly children need sleep!

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “How much sleep we need varies between individuals but generally changes as we age. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that school-age children (5-10 years) need 10-11 hours of sleep daily, teens (10-17 years) need 8.5-9.5 hours…”

More importantly, the CDC attributes lack of brain functionality to lack of sleep.

When a child has less than 5 hours of sleep per night their brains capabilities are equal to that of a person who would blow .07 of a breathalyzer (.07 is over the legal limit in most states).

2) What Is the Code of Conduct?

Parents and students understanding school policies are vital to parent, student and teacher success. Two policies parents should comprehensively understand prior to the school year beginning is (1) Dress Code Policy and (2) Tardy Policy.

(1) Dress Code – It is vital to know what clothing is acceptable at school prior to going school shopping. Back to school shopping is a common past time for parents and students. No school administrator wants to inform a parent that their child’s entire “newly purchased” wardrobe is not acceptable for school. All dress code policies are published and available weeks prior to school beginning. Most schools have these policies available online. Check your child policy before “back to school shopping”.

(2) Tardy Policy – Tardy policies are in place to teach students the value of “being on time”. When our children go into the work force they are docked pay or lose their jobs for their tardiness – school is where students begin to learn that tardiness has consequences.

As a teacher, countless mornings students have arrived late to school, no fault of their own. Waking up and getting to school on time is never an easy task. But understand that all actions have consequences, regardless of if the parent woke up late or if a parent has a flat tire; your student will still be penalized. Be sure to check the school/district website for your child’s bus schedule, bus arrival and drop off time and location.

Also, be aware of school hours: when does your child’s school open and close, what are the after school hours’ policies? Is there afterschool care? These are all questions parents should ask.

Just remember school policies are in place to protect the parent, student and teacher. Adhering to all policies only ensure your child’s success and your own peace of mind.

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3) Does Your Child Qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch?

At the beginning of the school year lots of papers come home for parent’s signature. Take the time to read every paper and ask students where certain forms are. These forms are provided to help and inform parents.

“Free and reduced lunch” applies to much more than just lunch. The school district uses this qualification information in many ways. Students who qualify can be eligible to take free SAT, Pre-SAT, ACT and other important, but costly, tests.

Students may also qualify for free health care and insurance provided through the school. Many schools have an on-staff nurse or doctor in their wellness center that can conduct regular check-ups and sports physicals for free.

4) Is Your Voice Being Heard?

The only way to have a healthy parent-teacher relationship is by contacting your student’s teachers regularly. As a rule parents should contact their child’s teachers at least twice a month. Set an alarm on your phone. Your child’s teacher may service as many as 30 – 250 students each day; as a parent you have to make sure your voice is heard.  

The best way to contact teachers is by email. If you do not have a working email address that you check constantly create one prior to school starting. Save teachers emails in contact list for easy access. Ensure that the school or teachers always have a working cell-phone or home number.

P.S. Regular contact gives the teacher a chance to brag about how awesome your child is doing, we don’t just want to call about behavior problems.

5) How Can I Prevent Scheduling Surprises?  

Being a new millennium parent means using technology to your advantage. Program school events into phone calendar with alarms – district calendars are published two years in advance. Synch your personal calendar with your child’s school calendar. Know when progress reports, report cards, days off, holiday breaks and your child’s testing calendar. Students take a large portion of standardized test in the spring (when we all love to plan vacations).

Testing dates are set months in advance – be sure to plan trips and events around school testing calendars. If personal emergencies arise contact your child’s teacher(s) and school directly.

Be sure to look over parent letters and the syllabus. Schedule important project dates and deadlines into your personal phone or on a refrigerator calendar. Most importantly, plan to attend your child’s school open house (meet teachers, administrators, get contact information).

6) Is Your Child Organized?

Organization is essential for learning and an important lesson to teach our students. In order to pay our bills on time as adults we must stay organized. Students need to be organized as well in order to get assigned in on-time and complete.

Teachers know and understand which supplies will make students successful in their classroom. Do not go and buy the entire “back-to-school” section at the store. Most schools post back-to-school lists. If a list is not posted, wait. Teachers will send home a “needed” materials list in the first week of school.

Be sure to check your child’s binder and book-bag regularly. Remind your student to clean his/her locker at school or to go through a binder with your children.  Many times completed work is lost in their binder or book bag. This also ensures your child hasn’t forgotten to give you an important notice or paper from a teacher or the school.



7) Can My Child Have a Cell Phone in School? 

Understanding your child’s cell phone policy is vital to your child’s success. From Elementary School to High School – your child’s school will have a strict, scripted cell phone policy.

Be sure to understand when it is appropriate to call or text your child. Monitoring your child’s cell phone policy is an easy way to ensure your child is not using their phone during school hours.  Many cell phone carriers allow parents to set time and day restrictions for phone usage.

Cell phone policies are created to protect students in many ways. Many policies require teachers or administrators to confiscate students’ phones if they are used during the school day. Pay close attention to your child’s school’s policy – this could prevent laborious trips to your child’s school for cell phone retrieval.

8) What Happens After School?

Many schools have provided after-school programs and activities for students. Regardless of if your child participates in school or community activities after school it is essential to set a strict after school timeline. Create a posted schedule for expected activities after school with a time-line. Call or check-in regularly to make sure these tasks are being completed.

  • When should homework be completed?
  • Does your child need a scheduled nap time after school?
  • Does your child have a reading schedule?
  • When and what should your child eat?

These are questions you and your child should discuss before creating a schedule.

9) What Happens in a School Emergency?

No parent wants to worry about something happening to their child at school.  All schools should have a strict policy for school emergencies. Whether the emergency is minor or immense make sure you are prepared. Program these numbers into your phone: school phone number, school district office, important extensions and more.

What happens during a school delay or weather day (snow, hurricane, tornado, etc)? How are parents informed? Many districts have free apps available for smart phones that will send important alerts to parent’s phones, most local news stations have apps that will also send school closing and updates to users phones. The best plan for school emergencies is to understand procedure. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – this is about your child’s safety!

10) Who Do I ask for Help?

Many of the parents I talk to are fearful to ask questions. The only way to ensure you know – is by asking.  Parents can ask anyone who works at the school (teachers, secretaries, administrators) or for the district. Employees are trained to answer questions or direct parents to the person who is knowledgeable on that subject.

When in doubt – ask!


By Alonna Berry