Classroom Confidential: Insider Tips from School Staffers

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Kids coming down stairs

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Treat Me as an Equal
"At parent-teacher conference time, I value parents who value my time and offer a compromise that works for both of us. It's annoying when parents expect me to accommodate their schedules without taking into consideration that I have a family and other responsibilities too. " --Ohio fourth-grade teacher

Send Lunch, Not Money
"Schools have been trying to make lunches healthier for years, but the truth is that most kids who buy theirs at school still aren't choosing stuff that's good for them. I see them go through the line, and they're not picking the nutritious offerings. If you pack your child a healthy lunch, you're taking control over what he eats. Even better, have him help you make it!" --New York first-grade teacher

Offer a Helping Hand
"One amazing parent texts me every week to see whether I need anything for the classroom and then brings in those things. When we broke the carving tool midway through making jack-o'-lanterns, another mom saved the day by driving over with a replacement." --Georgia kindergarten teacher

Follow Through with Consequences
"I have a mom who asks me at pickup if her child had a good day. On the two occasions when I told her that he had made bad choices, she took him aside, talked to him, and had him apologize to me. He is one of my best-behaved students. I believe that's because he knows there's a direct link between his school behavior and his home life." --Texas second-grade teacher

Think Before You Pack
"Some kids get teased because their lunches look and smell different. One girl brings the same lunch every day, and I know she would like to eat something else once in a while. In fact, she's the first one with her hand up if someone is giving something away." --New York cafeteria monitor

Feel Free to Question My Decisions
"I have no problem taking the time to explain the whys and hows of my approach -- as long as it's not in front of the kids. If a mom asks, 'Why can't my child come to you to solve her friendship problem at recess?' I'm happy to go through it: 'We've taught her how to handle disagreements all year. First I modeled it, then I helped her solve the problem standing next to her, and now I trust her to solve it on her own. It is important that she learns this skill now so she can get better at it as she gets older.'" --Georgia kindergarten teacher

Help Your Child Fit In
"I once had a second-grader whose mother sent her to school with a sippy cup every day so she wouldn't stain her shirt -- even though her classmates called her a baby. The parents of a first-grade boy with long, curly blond hair wouldn't let him get a haircut even after his classmates made fun of him and called him a girl. No student should be teased or bullied for any reason. But let's face it: Kids can be cruel. When children have friends and are part of a group, it makes the school day so much more enjoyable for them. So listen to your child. Ask him what's going on at school. And find out what you can do, within your power, to improve his school life." --New York phys-ed teacher

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