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KNOXVILLE — Either the kiddos are back in school or they will be shortly. Either way, it’s time to think about how to help them get off to the very best start possible.

Amy Broemmel, assistant professor of education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, (and mother of three children, ages 6, 11 and 14) offers these tips for parents:

1. Turn in all the paperwork and fees. While packing school supplies is important, there is no replacement for the paperwork you’re asked to complete and turn in. Even if it seems like you’ve done it a hundred times, don’t count on the school to find last year’s forms. Take the time to complete new forms listing your contact information, how your child goes to and from school, any medical issues, etc.

2. Write a note to your child’s teacher providing them with information about your child. Teachers have many students to get to know quickly, and that’s not easy. You know your child best, and teachers appreciate any insights you’re willing to share. Include information about your family (How many kids? Pets? What you enjoy doing together?), as well as your child (personality and disposition; likes, dislikes and fears; Is she a social butterfly? Does he love the Weather Channel? Does he struggle with change? Has she struggled to get along with a particular child in the past?). Also alert the teacher to any significant changes at home (new sibling, divorce, a parent out of work or back to work, death in the family, etc.).

3. Go to open house and parent night … and listen! Even if you’re an old pro and have had kids in a school for years, school policies and information can change. These events are great opportunities to hear how your child’s teacher is going to run things. You’re get important information — and a sense of what your child’s teacher is like. Also, it makes an impression; teachers notice who comes and who doesn’t. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to attend, call or send a note to let the teacher know that while you’d like to attend, the timing doesn’t work.

4. Value your child’s teacher’s time, and they will likely value yours. While open house, drop-off and pick-up times are a great time to say, “hello” and extend well-wishes, they are not good times to ask for a progress report. Meaningful conversation about your child’s academic progress, the math curriculum, or the class’ social structure can’t occur while the teacher is busy making sure students get in the right cars or on the right buses. However, you should feel free to contact your child’s teacher to set up a meeting to discuss concerns or questions — or to get a general update. Teachers know that communication is key and want to partner with parents in educating kids.

5. Stay positive! Be as excited about school as you can. You are your children’s first teacher and if you don’t like school, they won’t either. Talk with your child every day about what they did in school. Ask open-ended questions, such as “Tell me what you did today,” rather than, “How was your day?” (which often gets the answer, “Fine.”). Praise your child for their good work, and give them the support to get –and stay — organized. Give the school year a chance to get under way before you judge what kind of year it will be.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,