Remember, Meet the Teacher is as much a get-to-know you session for you with the teacher and for the teacher with you. It’s also a crazy time for teachers who are meeting as many as 25 to 30 students and their parents for the first time.
Here are our don’ts for that day:
Don’t expect the teacher to remember everything you’ve told them at that event. Follow up with an email that references the conversation and tells you how nice it was to meet that teacher and how excited you are for the year.
If your child has some special needs (and don’t they all) or something you want the teacher to know about your family or your child’s learning style, follow that up in an email.
Don’t get frustrated by the craziness of Meet the Teacher and then the first few weeks of school. Find ways to be a partner with your child’s teacher and with the school. Find tips from one former principal here.
The first day of school is just around the corner. Wednesday kids in the Bastrop, Lake Travis and a few other districts head back. Thursday, it’s Round Rock, Leander, Georgetown and Pflugerville. Austin heads back Aug. 20.
We want to see your first day of school pictures! If you do remember to take a photoS, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us @statesman on Twitter or Instagram.
Meredith Hemphill at her new school, Gullet Elementary, in 2004. Sarah Barnes
When you do take your photos, consider these things:
Think about the background and location. Make sure it doesn’t overpower the people in the photo.
Worry about the lighting. You want to see their faces and what they are wearing, not the shadows on their face or behind them.
Get a full-body shot if you can. You want to be able to see how little they are compared with what’s around them.
Take it in an identifying place to help you remember the year. We love to do it in front of the class list or the teacher’s door. It usually will say the grade and the teacher’s name.
Ben Villalpando couldn’t wait to start kindergarten in 2006. Now he’s a senior in high school.
Take it in the same spot each year. For years, we took our photos in front of the crayons that said “Cowan” at Cowan Elementary. Now we tend to have to sneak a photo session in the car on the way to the high school bus stop or drop-off line. The same background helps us see their growth.
Don’t worry about smiles. They might not smile. That makes it all the more memorable of who they are at this age.
The Austin Diaper Bank would be happy to have your donation. Right now, they particularly need size 5 and size 6, but they’ll take any size diapers and they’ll take ones for adults, too.
“While diaper donations slow during the summer, the need does not,” said Holly McDaniel, executive director of the Austin Diaper Bank, in a press release. “If we can’t replenish some of our supplies, some of our neighbors in Central Texas may not get the diapers they need to keep babies or other family members clean, dry and healthy during these hot months.”
For those extroverted kids, going back to school can be exciting: Tons of friends to see again. New ones to make. Things to look forward to like school events, hanging out before and after school, the cafeteria at lunch.
For those kids who are naturally introverted, are socially awkward, on the autism spectrum, anxious, geeky or shy or whatever label you like, it can be very stressful.
Cheryl Perera, a licensed clinical social worker for Baylor Scott & White Outpatient Mental Health in Round Rock, is the mother of two such children herself. First she wants kids to know that it’s OK to be an introvert. It’s OK to be anxious about returning to school. It’s OK to feel awkward. Parents should honor their feelings and invite them to continue to share their feelings with you.
She has some suggestions on how to make the transition easier:
Before school starts
Go to orientation or Meet the Teacher. It’s a relaxed setting for kids to make connections before school starts.
Sign up for activities. If they can start before the school year begins, it can give kids a chance to start interacting and slowly build relationships before school is “on” and they have to sit at the lunch table.
Give kids talking points. Have them figure out their hobbies or interests so they have something to talk to other kids about.
Have a party and invite other kids. Make it an active party where the kids are doing something. Communication will happen naturally if they are active.
Hang out in the neighborhood park or pool. Your kids will find other kids that will be at their school. School won’t feel so awkward if they’ve seen some of their peers before.
Prepare for the first day of school. Know that as soon as you leave or as soon as they get on the bus, they probably will be fine. If it’s a big transition year like kindergarten or the first day of middle school or high school, know that it often looks worse than it is. Help by packing the backpack and lunch the night before and picking out what to wear.
Model how to communicate. Give kids strategies about what to do when you meet someone new. Some tips she shares are pay a compliment to the other person or ask a question about what they like to do to help find some common ground.
Be supportive, but not a “fixer.” If they have a rough day, sympathize with them, then ask open-ended questions to get them talking. Ask them what they think theycould do differently the next day and have them come up with their own ideas.
Honor their feelings and invite them to continue to share their feelings with you. You can even share a time when you felt awkward or nervous.
Have a 504 plan or and individualized education plan if you need it. Things like autism and anxiety can qualify your child for special services. Schools often have social emotional learning classes for kids who struggle with talking to their peers.
Have an emotional safety plan. Help them anticipate what could happen with friendships and what their response will be. Give them strategies for what happens when they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Where will they go? What will they do? Which adult will help them?
Find a supportive other adult. For kids, they might need a psychologist to talk to, but they also could have a trusted teacher, scout leader or parent of a friend to talk to as well.
Zilker Botanical GardenWoodland Faerie Trail. The trail is full of homes people have created for the fairies. Open through Friday. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road. zilkergarden.org
Summer Stock Austin’s “The Music Man.” 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Friday. $26-33. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org
Summer Stock Austin’s “Rob1n.” Musical by Allen Robertson and Damon Brown explores what if Robin Hood was a girl. 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday. $9-18. thelongcenter.org
Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp offers morning movies for a $1 to $5 donation. Plus you can collect stamps for prizes. “Prince of Egypt,” 10 a.m. Friday, 10:15 a.m. Sunday, Mueller. 10 a.m. Friday-Saturday, Slaughter Lane. “Despicable Me,” 10 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m. Sunday, Lakeline.
Zilker Summer Musical’s “All Shook Up.” 8:15 p.m. Thursday-Sunday through Aug. 18. Free, but donations are welcome. Zilker Hillside Theatre, 2206 William Barton Drive. zilker.org
When your kid has a food allergy, diabetes or another life-threatening condition, back to school can be stressful. What will happen if your kid with a peanut allergy accidentally sits next to the kid with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and gets exposed to peanut butter? What will happen if your kid with celiac disease is offered a birthday cupcake or is told something is gluten-free and it’s not? Or if your kids with diabetes has a low blood sugar moment?
Meet with school staff members: Set up meetings with principals, teachers, nurses and cafeteria staff. This ensures that everyone is informed and prepared and allows a parent to understand how a child’s school manages food allergies.
Create a written plan: Work with an allergist to develop an action plan that outlines all necessary information on your child’s allergy, including how to prevent accidental exposures and how to recognize and treat symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Post pictures: Tape pictures of your child to the classroom wall with information on their allergies to alert anyone that comes into the room. You can also post one on your child’s desk, which can serve as a secondary reminder when snacks are served.
Make safe snacks: Pack allergen-free snacks for your child in case someone brings in a treat for the class. Send the snacks to school with a label specifying that they are safe, or leave some with their teacher so your child won’t feel left out during classroom celebrations.
Have good communication with teachers and other parents. Be vocal about what your child’s food needs are and be proactive about finding solutions. However, don’t expect that the teacher or parent will change what they are planning to suit your child. It’s nice when it happens, but not realistic to depend on that.
Try to pre-plan with similar food alternates. Fothergill finds out ahead of time when there will be a party at school or what a birthday party host will be serving. If it’s not what her children can eat, she will make her children the gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free equivalent if that is possible. A teacher even asked her to make the whole class gluten-free spaghetti for an event so that it wouldn’t be an issue.
Try to always have food on-hand. Fothergill keeps a freezer of food, especially baked goods for parties. She also sets up teachers with either pre-packaged cookies or frozen cupcakes they can keep in the freezer at school for when parties happen. Of course, on the occasion when her kids don’t have access to an alternative, they learn that “they can’t always get what the want,” she says. “Sometimes you have to wait.”
Eat before an event. If her kids are headed to a play date, she has them make a gluten-free sandwich beforehand. If there aren’t good choices at the event, they won’t be hungry.
Bring something with you. She also tries to have snacks on-hand wherever they go.
Learn where there could be cross-contamination. They stopped eating things like corn chips and fries because of the cross-contamination that happens when a restaurant fries the onion rings or the chicken nuggets in the same fryer as the chips or the fries. She’s also learned to always ask questions even if you would think something like a risotto would be gluten-free, but you find out that that particular chef puts flour in his risotto. She’s also learned to look at beauty products as well.
And again: Empower kids to be their own advocates. It gets easier with time, but her kids have learned how to talk to adults and their friends about their food needs. “It makes them independent,” she says.
Halloween, which is really only two months away can be a difficult time for kids with food allergies or intollerances.
Encourage neighbors to stock non-food items in their trick-or-treat basket, such as glow bracelets, stickers, tattoos, noise makers, bouncy balls.
Put a sticker on your child that says “non-food items only.” That way you don’t have to explain at every door why you can’t take the candy.
Place a sign on your door that reads “Non-food items available here.” Or paint a pumpkin teal. The Food Allergy Research & Education group created the Teal Pumpkin project to represent that you are food-allergy friendly by having non-food treats at your house. You can download a Teal Pumpkin sign here.
Take the candy if you don’t want to be impolite, but take it to an orthodontist participating in the Halloween Candy Buy Back program. I searched my ZIP code and found three locations nearby.
Don’t get caught missing a vaccine or without your paperwork. Find your children’s shot records and make sure they are in compliance with the 2018-2019 school vaccination schedule:
Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: four or five doses depending on which version your kid got.
Polio: four or three doses
Measles, Mumps and Rubella: two doses
Hepatitis B: three doses
Varicella: two doses
Hepatitus A: two doses
All of the above, plus
Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: three doses of the primary series plus a booster within the last five years
Meningococcal: one dose
Eighth- throught 12-graders
All of the above, but if the diptheria/tetanus/pertussis shot has not been given in the last 10 years, a booster is needed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends these vaccines for the 11-year-old or 12-year-old check up:
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps protect against HPV infections that cause cancer. For kids age 9-14, it’s two doses, one six months to a year after the first. For kids 15 or older, it’s three doses, the second one to two months after the first; the third, six months after the first.
Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine
Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against some of the bacteria that can cause infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia). These illnesses can be very serious, even fatal. It recommends one dose at 11.
Tdap vaccine provides a booster to continue protection from childhood against three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also called whooping cough).
Preteens and teens should get a flu vaccine every year, by the end of October if possible. It is very important for preteens and teens with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes to get the flu shot, but the flu can be serious for even healthy kids.
Think your child doesn’t need to be vaccinated. Dr. Don Murphey, an infectious disease specialist at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, who has been treating infectious disease in Texas children for almost a quarter of a century, explained to us last school why vaccines are so important.
Last year he saw seen mumps cases, like the ones at UT, come into Dell Children’s. Last year by August, Texas had more than 200 cases. “Before 2000, we had almost no cases of mumps,” he says.
He’s also seen in recent years more measles, whooping cough, pneumococcal meningitis and Haemophilus influenzae type b meningitis.
What’s going on here?
We’re seeing what doctors have been seeing in Europe, especially France and the United Kingdom, but on a smaller scale, Murphey says. The rates of mumps and measles in particular skyrocketed there after “The Lancet” medical journal published a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that it later had to retract. Wakefield lost his license because of it.
Wakefield’s study found a link to autism from the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. Multiple studies including those funded by plantiff’s lawyers who were looking for a link found no-such link. What happens, though, is that the MMR vaccine is given around the same time — about 12 months to 15 months — as when many kids with autism start to show signs.
Yet, the misinformation and the fear of vaccines persisted. Parents in Europe stopped vaccinating and Europe no longer had the “herd” immunity that happens when at least 90 percent to 95 percent of the population are vaccinated against a disease.
Diseases like measles and mumps that we just didn’t see are happening again. We rely on the herd immunity to protect us. You see these vaccines are not fool-proof, and they have waning effects. In the case of the students at UT, even if college students have been vaccinated as children but are exposed to mumps now, they might not be fully immune and get it.
Murphey says the mumps vaccine we use “is a very safe one. It doesn’t cause any meningitis,” he says. “It works great for herd immunity, but it doesn’t work if you’re exposed.”
If you do get mumps, it isn’t the worst thing most of the time. You get a fever, you feel bad for a few days, he says. Boys can also get an infection in their testes and girls in their ovaries. What is scary is that mumps can lead to meningitis and deafness.
While mumps is not a terrible disease, we could avoid the whole thing, if people who can get immunized do get immunized, he says.
For parents who are considering or are using an alternative vaccine schedule and delaying vaccines, Murphey encourages them not to. “Alternative schedules have never been shown to be any safer,” he says.
By delaying vaccines, you’re not protecting the most vulnerable population, who can get the most sick from these disease — infants and small children. They end up in the hospital or worse.
“You want to start protecting those kids as soon as possible,” Murphey says.
Vaccinate, please, if not for your own child, but for the other children.