Norm-setting in a new school year

Understanding that our students are fresh off the summer, teachers often spend the first couple of weeks of school re-acclimating them to the rituals and routines of the classroom. We know that shifting from one set of norms to another takes some amount of emotional energy for our students—even if they are eager to get back into the swing of school and see their classmates again. Getting used to new routines takes some mental labor for children, so don’t be surprised if your student comes home and is cranky with you after being awesome with us. We hear this every year!

We know you’re doing a lot of norm-setting at home, too.

A new year means getting back to studying at night and doing homework on the weekends, something our students enjoyed a hiatus from over the last few months. And, of course, there’s the social re-norming that happens. It’s easy for children to stay up late with family or friends when there are no morning classes, but as the school year picks up, parents often establish new expectations or rules at home to help their children balance it all—especially as the days get shorter and the list of commitments gets longer.

Every year we have parents tell us that their children are convinced that no other parents are imposing the kinds of rules on their peers that they are imposing on them. You might be hearing this, too. They tell you that none of their friends has a curfew or rules about cell phones or social media use. And while we know there is a nuanced and wide range of expectations that families have for their children, we know equally well that kids tend to underreport family expectations to their peers, meaning that the swath of family rules floating around our community is much broader than most realize.

Long story short: if your child is telling you you’re the only one imposing a curfew, get curious. And don’t assume you’re alone! In fact, we have proof that you’re not.

You may recall that last year, CA anonymously administered the FCD Student Attitudes and Behavior Survey, which we administer to our Upper School students every four years. While I shared the big picture results from the FCD survey with families during the final Parent Coffee Chat of the 2021-2022 school year, I want to highlight one result, as you engage in norm-setting at home this year.

Last year, we asked our Upper School students this question: “My parents/guardians often or always give me a curfew when I go out.”

73% responded “Yes.”

While the question of curfews, how to impose them, when, and for how late, is a family decision, according to our kids, the vast majority of our families are actively engaged in this question every time they leave the house. (We also know that some families have to take local regulations into account!)

We also encourage you to remember the other superpower you can always access: the parent community. As we get further into the school year, we hope that parents feel empowered to reach out to each other to confirm plans, share family expectations, and norm the spirit of outreach and support.