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 October 2018 Update




Iseult Catherine O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students |

A Member of The Tutors' Association






This Post is a companion piece to my Post ~














Before the new School Year is off and running, there are some questions you shall wish to ask. 


You shall wish to ring around to find out about the children for whom you have Parents / Guardians / Carers (PGEs) contact details or finding out contact details for children you will start in your child's class.  It's unlikely you would have a list of your child's whole class, but try to get sufficient names to satisfy your child's need for security and confidence, and to satisfy your natural curiosity as to the personality of your child's first teacher.   All the information you can gather about your child's class will go to make him or her and you more comfortable as starting approaches.



Arrange a small, low key, get-to-gether.  Three or four children maximum plus your child meeting in the local park with the PGCs, or visiting you in your place for a couple of hours at the outside.  Keep it short and don't go to any fuss. 



You don't want the children to get bored but you do want them to learn each others' names, and you shall have plenty of time to get to know the other PGCs.  



Even if the children do not become good friends, knowing someone in one's class from outside helps a child feel more settled.



Depending on how well you get on, you could be arranging lifts / car pooling to and from school starting after the first couple of weeks. 



If it's possible, a child would be more comfortable and relaxed if brought to and from school by his or her PGC for the first fortnight.  Give plenty of notice that 'James's' mother shall be collecting your child in the mornings from Monday and date, and give reminders.  Put a mark on the kitchen wall planner, so that your son or daughter can see when that change is coming.



It is important for a child to know what to expect, as much as possible.  


If this is to be your child's first term in 'big school' as much orientation as possible would be beneficial.



He or she may have seen the classroom when you visited the School before the Summer Break, but that's a long time ago for a child.  Contact the School Administrator, and ask if and when the classrooms will be open and available for viewing by the new students and their PGCs.



Teachers spend many hours over many days setting up their classrooms before the start of the new School Year.  They have artwork, posters, and their own personal material they have generated over years of teaching.  All of this is what makes a boring, square or oblong room into a 'wonder-room'!


If your child was very friendly with one specific child  last year in Montessori or creche, please find out as soon as possible, if not already done, if he or she is in class with your child this coming School Year.  If not, ask your child first, and if he or she agrees, contact the child's PGCs to see if setting up a play date would help both your child and the other child feel more settled and happier.



If this is your child's first term at 'big school', try to find out if any of his or her fellow students are known from pre-school, from mother and baby groups, or through mutual friends.  


Knowing who is in the class  gives each child a sense of belonging and self-confidence ~ a very good start to the School Year.







It is a very good idea to gather contact details of PGCs of children in the same class as your child(ren).  Especially important, are the details of PGCs of your child(ren)'s special friends, PLUS, details of people who live near you.  You and they should become very useful back-up for each other, when the car breaks down, or if there is a family emergency.


It is important to make these connections as soon as you can.







In your work and daily life, you need to be prepared to attend a meeting, and I imagine you also find it is best to make arrangements well in advance, so that all parties get time for preparation, bearing in mind how pressures can appear suddenly from any aspect of duties at work and at home.


CONSIDER, the Year Teacher has a class full of children with interested, enthusiastic, PGCs, all wanting regular updates or School Year end reports, and he / she shall try to do the best possible job to satisfy the questions and queries of everyone, during the course of the whole year.


You need to give your child's Teacher VERY GOOD NOTICE that you wish to arrange a meeting, plus the time to prepare fully.  Your child's Teacher will be familiar with his / her strengths and challenges well before the end of the first term, but may want to gather material to show you at the first formal meeting.


PLEASE give the Teacher and you room to breathe, and stagger your meetings so that you do not hit or cause a bottle-neck!







EVERY PGC wants to hear how their child has settled in the class in the first few weeks.  As months pass, PGCs will want updates and to discover how the idea of 'schooling' is going for each child. 


When you have decided on your final list of questions (which you should discuss with family and friends, who have a good deal of contact with your child and know him / her well, and who may have useful suggestions that did not dawn on you).


Please send the final list to the Year Teacher, with as much notice as possible, so that when you meet, he / she will have had a chance to do the homework, and you shall all save time while covering the topics most important to YOU.





You shall have a good many questions of your own.  The following are suggestions to help get you started on your lists, and for inclusion as you choose.


I suggest that each PGC has a page on the smartphone, laptop, or in a notebook, specifically for listing questions for a specific child's Teacher, as they come to mind.


If you have more than one child, keep your pages well separated, so that each reflects the specific child in question. 


It may be helpful for you both to have the questions under headings, such as specific subjects, levels of interaction, degree of personal development, etc, for later comparison.


Make a note of subjects you feel Jose or Anna seems not to have grasped as yet, so that you can ask the Teacher if he / she thinks there is a reason for this.  It could be that your child has not reached that developmental stage in class, or given that teaching mathematics, for example, has changed so fundamentally, you and your child may not be talking the same language on that subject.


ASKING grandparents, family, and family friends, if they have noticed how Jose or Anna has done in recent months, may uncover views that never struck you.  People like to help, especially family, DO NOT worry about asking for opinions or ideas.


When you are each ready with your final list to send to the Teacher in good time for his / her assessment, the two of you have to compare your own lists, to make one comprehensive one, including useful suggestions from anyone you have asked.   This comparing of lists may uncover some interesting ideas one or other of you thought of, that the other hadn't considered.  You shall both have a quite different perspective, and that is good.  


The following questions may appear to apply to younger students, but the ideas behind the questions are relevant to every age and ability.


(i)    Has Jose / Anna appeared to keep up a steady degree of participation in the class during the year so far?  Does he / she volunteer ideas often, or volunteer to take on jobs?


(ii)    Does he / she seem to make friends easily?  Is he / she more comfortable in small groups or large groups?  Does he / she try to stick with one or two friends for working in groups, or does he / she seem comfortable being placed to work with any children?  Can YOU (the PGCs) name Jose's / Anna's special friends in School?


(iii)   Which subject(s) would YOU (the Teacher) say continue to be challenging for Jose / Anna, and does he / she keep trying, or does enthusiasm fall off at any stage?  These questions need YOUR answers as well as the ones you get from the Year Teacher at your meeting.


(iv)  What were her / his stand-out improvements or developments in particular subjects so far?  (Did he / she suddenly grasp a concept in mathematics, or discover sentence construction?) 


Ask again, always ask, if you are not certain, what are the developmental norms for your child's age and class. 

You can then put in your own homework investigating the details, and possibly developing your own family activity to help support and encourage your child.


(v)   What would YOU say are Jose's / Anna's best subjects, working all the way down to those which are most challenging, as well as the Teacher's views?  (You will know a great deal of this from informal conversations with, or notes from the Teacher, but it is good to get an overview to help the family plan activities, and some home tutoring with books or other material you could get from the School library, or your local Library.  If you haven't been to your local Library for a good while, it will be a bright, exciting, place to visit!)


(vi)  What would YOU say are Jose's / Anna's natural strengths, and which subject always seems to be very hard work for him or her?  There has always to be room for surprize.   Your child may be doing very well at a subject, but because the way it is now taught is not familiar to you, you may not see the gains.


(vii)   What level do YOU (the Teacher) envisage Jose / Anna hitting in the near future and longer term.  Is there any subject the Teacher would recommend he / she works on during any school break?  If the answer is 'Yes', take advantage of every moment, get a list of the subjects, and ask for advice on good LOCAL teachers / tutors / groups who would suit Jose's / Anna's needs and personalities.  If the child shall need to do some school work over a break, it is important that he / she likes the teacher / group, and gets the best out of it.  Initially, it may not be a welcome idea, but it could be suggested as an opportunity to make new friends, hopefully local.



PLEASE always remember, children learn in their own way, in their own time, and trying to squash them into a box of 'topics covered to date', is unfair to the child, and causes unnecessary stress for some PGCs.  The most important thing to ask yourself is your child happy to go to school, and does he or she talk readily and animatedly about what happens from the playground to the classroom, talking about classmates and what they get up to.  


(viii)  Based on all the feedback and answers from the Year Teacher, ask him or her if Jose / Anna shall have opportunities in the School, this year and next year, to get specific support for weaker subjects, and if this is necessary.  Also ask if there is some type of streaming system introduced as the students get older. Different schools have different terminology for much the same activities.  Some schools do not stream students ever.  Your child(ren)'s School may not use the term 'streaming', but there may well be some form of matching students with similar levels of performance in discrete subjects.  If the answer is 'yes', ask if the decision on what 'stream' suits a particular student is based on the Teacher's observations over the year; examinations during the year, or at the beginning of the new school year, or a mixture of all.  Also, ask if students get a mixed streaming depending on the disparity between their strongest and weakest subjects.


Try to discover your child's School's glossary of terminology as early as possible.  It helps keep communication between PGCs and the School clear, without confusion.


(ix)  At the end of the meeting, please take the opportunity to thank the Year Teacher for the meeting as you know how particularly busy he or she is.  Also thank him / her for the dedicated work with your child(ren), and mention a couple of subjects where his / her particular attention and assistance made a difference to your child(ren)'s grasp of a idea.  Teaching can be a thankless, underappreciated, underpaid, job.  As with every job, recognition goes a long way.


I hope the above list will help to start you off, or add to your already listed questions.


Coming up to the end of the first term, please get your child started on practising composing his / her personal, handwritten, letter of thanks to his / her Year Teacher and Classroom Assistant, as soon as possible, as a few drafts may be required.  These 'thank you' letters are good practise in composition, and in showing gratitude for help, or a present, or anything a child receives for birthdays from grandparents, for example, or during the course of their lives.  This is part of the Grace and Courtesy which should be part of every child's life. 


They can be prepared for any School breaks, for particular holidays where gratitude is timely, or for the end of term / School Year.  These 'letters' could be drawings, artwork, 3D designs, or anything at all.  Each child has his or her own Learning Style, and not everyone is inclined to handwriting.  Any work produced by a child should be handed over by him or her with appreciation and thanks, and received in the same vein.


Encourage your child to make the letter reflective of his / her personality, and suggest adding references to work that he / she really enjoyed, and mention what subjects he / she feels were where she improved most.  Depending on the age of the child, drawings in the margins would be appropriate. Please ensure the child has checked all the spelling, punctuation, and grammar, at whatever level of skills he / she has reached in composition.


Find out from other PGCs what is the accepted norm when it comes to giving a present to a Year Teacher. There may be a self-imposed rule for an upper end of expenditure. Some schools would find a bottle of wine acceptable, others may not approve of alcohol.  It is best to know when and how much to spend.  However, small presents, carefully chosen, as tokens of thanks for your child's Teacher's hard work, should not be part of a competition to see who buys what.


I think most teachers have sufficient scented candles!







I am sure you shall spend a great deal of time considering and / organising what would be the best childcare for your child(ren) during the next Summer break.   It is very difficult to find an affordable summer camp / school / group, which is relatively close to home, and which covers as many hours as possible, and which also chimes with your later in the day childcare service. 


Some of the feedback you get from the Year Teacher will influence what type of Summer camp / school / group your child shall attend.  This is another very good reason to go for an early appointment with the Year Teacher to discuss your child's interests, and give you time to investigate suitable establishments.  The good ones book out early.



It all involves a great deal of juggling timetables and finances.




Very Best of Luck!

Regards, Iseult

Iseult Catherine O'Brien





If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you. If you have any suggestions, they would be most welcome.


My website,, "Education Matters" is where my Posts originate and are updated as necessary, and then updated to my Linkedin site.


I am an elected Member of The Tutors' Association.




If I quote a person, group, organisation, or establishment, I do my very best to source the material quoted, and to attribute it properly.  If I cannot satisfy myself I have found the author or speaker who voiced a quote, I resist using it, no matter how tasty a bite!  If I refer in passing to views expressed by others, I attribute the views even if they have not been given verbatim in the text.  


I work on a basis of goodwill and good intentions.I shall make errors, being human, and when I do, I apologise now, and should always welcome a correction, which I would insert in the relevant Post prominently, in clear unambiguous text and type, repeating the apology. That's is the best I can do!