Back to School Tips from a Veteran Teacher

So its that time of the year again – Back to school. For those of us who are not from the US, back to school or especially starting school for the first time can be a but daunting.  Whereas we instinctively knew what to do in our home countries, here we are not so sure. So to get some tips, we interviewed Susana, a teacher with 10 years of experience and a mom whose son is starting school this year – for some insights into the process.  Susana has also worked extensively with kids who dont have English as a first language and those who come from different cultures, so her perspective was very useful. The article is geared towards younger kids, but there are insights useful for all.

Here’s what she said.

Things to prepare with kids at home before or as school starts so that they feel more comfortable :

In three and four yearld old classes, the kids do nursery rhymes, so you can start going over some of them with your kids so that they know the words . Susana recommends some popular ones like:

  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • Jack and Jill
  • Baa baa black sheep
  • Patty Cake

You can get  the words online, and Susana recommends watching Youtube videos of these rhymes, especially if you are not comfortable with the language.

Getting Library Cards at your local library is also a good idea so that kids get used to the concept of a library, checking out books and returning them. Teach your child about the process as kids get to borrow and check out books in the school library.

Fables and Fairytales are covered in the younger classes. Susana mentioned that she noticed that people from other cultures were often less familiar with the stories, so to increase their levels of comfort, parents may want to start sharing these with their kids. Some examples of Fairy Tales and Fables are here.

Back to School Tips:

When choosing a backpack, stay away from fads and trends.  Susana highly recommends a plain backpack. Though it may seem cool to an unsuspecting mom, kids often get teased and made fun off about ‘baby’ backpacks, or whats on their backpacks.

Most schools post a school supply list on their websites. That gives you a good idea of what to buy. The website also has information on when the meet and greet will be, the registration and so on.

Susana suggests that most teachers recommend bringing half of the supplies when you come for the meet and greet. That helps the parents come with the students and put the supplies in during the meet and greet. The other half can come the first day of school, as to get it all together can get very heavy and bulky.

Teachers also appreciate thoughtful touches like parents providing Lysol wipes and cleaning supplies. Here the teachers are responsible for cleaning the classroom and these are often overlooked.

Once School Starts:

In the US the teachers normally send home a newsletter every week discussing what the students will be learning and doing, and what they have been working on.

Put a common folder or a homeowrk folder in your child’s backpack. This is where the newsletter is placed, as well as other communication.

Check all contents of the backpack every day – the teachers usually tell the parents about the process followed.

If you hear nothing from the teacher on scheduled days or for a couple of weeks, feel free to contact the teacher and ask.

In Kindergarden and Pre-K parents are expected to help with the homework.

For the General School Year:

These are some of the things that were not there in India and are new in the US.

Join the PTA. It requires $5 or $10, and the money usually goes for the school festival.  The PTA organizes fundraisers, carnivals and book fairs. At the bookfair, companies such as scholastic etc sell books at the school and the a portion of the proceeds go to the school. These are usually good money makers for school. Parents volunteers help set it up, and they need volunteers for delivery, cash registers.

Room Parent: You may have heard the concept of room parents, here in the US. A room parent is basically the teachers channel for communication with other parents. The room parents typically works with the teachers to plan class events. Typical events are Christmas party, sports meet. The room parents organizes volunteers. You can also  volunteer to be an assistant room parent.

Teacher Appreciation Gift: A small gift is appropriate end of the year and at Christmas. A card is much appreciated. Room parents sometimes get a joint gift for the teacher by collecting money from parents., usually a gift certificate. The room parent can also get the kids together to make a gift for the teacher.


Valentines Day: The teacher sends home a classlist and students have to usually get cards and maybe treats for all class mates, regardless of whether they are boys or girls.

Easter Egg Hunts: This depends on the whether the school is open to it from a religious stand point. Parents provide eggs and treats.

Holiday/Christmas party: This is the big one. The class may do a gift swap, mainly crafts. There is sometimes a breakfast with Santa. Parents should offer to bring in foods.

Read our follow up post with some additional tips.

As you know, if you are new to the school system, you will have many questions..let us know. We will try to get you the answers from Susana and other parents who have been there! So please put your questions in the comments. Some new tips here.

Last 5 posts by Khushi


  1. mahi

    Hi Khushi – Very timely post. Thank you Susana for sharing your insights.

    Does anyone here have experience with Montessori system? I would really appreciate the dialogue regarding dos and don’ts of the montessori system.

  2. Anonymous

    Hi Mahi. I have heard it depends on your kid. If your kid is better as an individual learner then montessori is good. But he or she may like more group activities, in which case a regular setting may be better. My two daughters went to two schools. One was very happy in montessori, but the other I noticed would drift off if on her own and not do things. So I put her in a group setting and she loved it.

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