Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Introducing your child to their new teacher

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s school time again! While I was prepping things last night for my boys’ first day of school, I was got to thinking about the process we go through each year to prepare the teachers for their arrival.

After my boys were diagnosed, I came up with the idea to write a letter introducing each of my boys to their teacher. I found that there was a lot I wanted to share with the teachers. But, downloading a whole bunch of information to them over the phone or in-person wasn’t necessarily the best approach because I couldn’t expect them to remember everything.  So, by placing the details in a letter, the teacher would have an individualized resource to refer to whenever needed. It was almost like giving them an answer key about my boys. Did you like that? Answer key. Teacher. Pretty slick, right? ;-) Moving on…

I’ve been writing introduction letters since 2008, and they average anywhere from 2-5 pages each. Each year I receive gratitude and many positive comments about the letters, since the teachers feel like they know and understand my kids before school even begins. Usually I write the letters during the summer and then email them or drop them off at the school several weeks in advance of the start of school. This way, the teacher will have them when they first start back to begin prepping their classrooms.
I thought that I would share the format of my letter with you. If you are not already doing something similar, this might give you the inspiration to try it for yourself. If writing a letter of introduction to a teacher is old hat to you, then great job! Read on, and maybe you can give me suggestions on how I can improve my format for next year. Here we go!  
Dear Mr./Ms. Teacher:
I wanted to take this opportunity to give you some information about my child, _____, in preparation for him/her entering your class. You likely already know that he/she has an IEP. I would like to go a bit further than what you will find in the IEP, and provide you with a more in-depth perspective about my child so that you will understand him/her better.
First, my child is diagnosed with _____ and _____.
Give a brief description of their diagnosis (all of them, if there is more than one). Tell them what it means and how it affects your child. Be sure to include information about food allergies or other issues that are relevant and may need special attention.

Next, I would like to share some of his/her positive attributes and strengths.
It’s always good to start at the beginning with what your child has going for them. What makes them special and unique? List several things that are great about your child.
Now I would like to tell you about his/her favorite things, which are great motivators.
Try to list a few things your child responds positively to, like their favorite cartoon character, or their favorite toy, etc.     

In terms of academics, I would like to give you some information about his/her strengths and difficulties.
The IEP will probably go into this, but what do you see as the areas where your child excels? Areas of academic success can also be motivators. What are the things that your child struggles with in the classroom, or with homework?  
Next, I think it will be good for you to understand some of my child’s behaviors, triggers, and things we are working to improve.
Does your child have some odd, negative, or stimulatory behaviors? Share whatever you see at home that could also occur in the classroom. What things will trigger a meltdown? What are the things you are working on in private therapy?
I would now like to share with you some strategies and suggestions to deal with the previously listed behaviors and triggers.
What things work to help diffuse your child at home or therapy? Do you have a reward system? Do you use any calming techniques? What kinds of tools, words, or actions will help the teacher? Or, if you haven’t yet figured out what works, tell them what hasn’t worked so they know not to do those things.
In closing, I would like to thank you for reading this letter. I realize that I’ve given you a lot of information to digest about one child. I believe that your understanding of _____ through this letter and your upcoming experiences with him/her will serve to help him/her grow and better participate in your classroom. I fully expect him/her to have a marvelous year and to enjoy your class. Please do not hesitate to call or email me. I am including my contact information below. _____ and I are looking forward to a great year!   
Don’t forget to add in any other special requests or additional information that is relevant to your child’s success in the classroom.


Phone Numbers
I realize that school has already started, but it is never too late to provide useful information about your child to their teacher. I think you will agree that it is a very good exercise to get into the habit of, and it will benefit both the teacher and your child. And, it will help you have less stress knowing  that you were proactive in getting the school year off to the right start.
For those of you who have written letters like this before, what things do you include that I didn’t touch on here? I’d love to hear your comments! Maybe you’ll inspire me to make some changes to my letter for next year!
Happy Back to School, everyone!
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