As first-time parents of kids entering Primary 1, it’s only natural to feel excited — and in some parents’ cases, even more excited than your kids. This is especially so when your kid has been posted to your alma mater! You can bet that there have been many changes to the school since you had your last meal at the canteen. You may even wonder if there are some things about the school that never changed at all.
With the registration process almost ending for all, some of us might already have received welcome emails from our kid’s respective schools. My own firstborn is among those, and I was impressed that details about her P1 Orientation Day were released just one day after the posting results.
Here’s how you can prepare and make the most of the Orientation Day — including 16 good questions to ask your child’s new teacher.
- What good routines should my kid have before school starts?
- How early should we start trying out those routines?
As our kids will be immersed in a totally new school environment, it helps if we can at least get them familiar with routines at home. There are routines that we can control and they can start at home. They include sleeping and waking times, travelling to school, and packing their school bags. Some advice from their teachers on these would be good, since they have likely seen many cohorts of students and know what routines are best.
- What support will be given to my kid in the first few weeks of school to help them with the transition to a new school?
- Is the school equipped with enough support for any particular needs that my kid may have in the long run?
Just thinking about the first week of school may give some first-time parents the jitters. With so many new things that our kids will be experiencing, we worry about how they are going to cope. Will there be enough teacher support to help them navigate around school? Help also includes access to school counsellors and Special Education Needs (SEN) officers for learning and behavioural support.
If your child may need extra support due to certain needs, now is the time to highlight it to the teacher (you may want to take them aside for a private chat). Even if the representative you see at Orientation Day isn’t the actual form teacher, they will be able to help you take note of your child’s needs and let the teacher know.
Most schools will have a buddy system in the form of an older child (usually in upper primary) who will guide your child around school during recess for the first two weeks or so. You can ask how they are paired up, and examples of what the buddy will be doing to help your child get used to a new environment.
- What are the seating arrangements like in the classroom?
- How will the teachers decide where my kid sits?
With a variety of student profiles in the classroom, knowing how the teacher decides who sits where may assure us that students’ needs are taken care of.
If possible, take a peek at the different classrooms to get an idea of how your child will be seated. However, try to avoid asking for special treatment unless really necessary — like if your child has severe myopia and needs to be seated at the front to see the board properly. You don’t want to be branded as a problem parent from the start by asking for too many things.
Schoolbag and stationery
- What stationery is a must to get for my kid’s school bag?
- What learning materials must they bring every day?
As we are not there during their lessons, we may not really see the struggles our kids may face during learning. How can we ensure that whatever stationery we will get for our kids will be sufficient and suitable? This may also be a good reason for us not to succumb to our kids’ demands for fancy-schmancy pencils or erasers during shopping. Based on experience, fancy does not mean good functionality!
Recess and breaks
- How long is recess?
- What kind of food do the canteen stalls sell?
- Should I pack food for my kid?
- Are there any other break times for them if they get hungry after recess?
Some of our kids may have allergies, while others may have dietary restrictions. Being aware of the kinds of food the school canteen offers will give us some assurance that our kids may enjoy eating at school. Some situations may also require us to pack snacks for our kids, like break times when they are allowed to eat but not visit the canteen.
- What are some independent skills or etiquette that my kid should already know before school starts?
These do not refer to numeracy or literacy skills. Rather, they refer to skills that are useful for our kids to manage themselves well without anyone’s help. These may include knowing what to do if they are lost in school, cleaning up after themselves in the toilets and packing their bags at the end of the day.
- What happens if my kid falls sick or gets injured?
- What happens when I’m late to pick up my kid from school?
Getting the flu or having accidents in school may be a common occurrence. It helps to know what contingency plans the school has in place to manage such emergencies. Where will my kid be sent to while waiting for us to pick her up? What number can I call to ask about my child’s condition?
- What are some technical skills that my kid should know that will help them in their learning experiences?
In our enthusiasm to prepare our kids well academically, we may overlook certain basic yet important skills. We may assume that our kids know them as they seem fine at home.
But it helps to ensure that we are fully aware of what our kids need to know. They include: holding a pencil properly, using a ruler well, writing within lines, keeping worksheets in folders, and arranging materials in their bags.
Although our kids’ P1 Orientation Day might still be at least a month away, it doesn’t hurt to start thinking about how you can start preparing. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. There is no harm in ensuring we fully prepare our kids for school, and that starts with asking the right questions.