Back to School Cheat Sheet

Author: Karen Copeland

How many of you are looking forward to back to school right now?!?

One of the things I always felt uneasy about with back to school was trying to let my child’s teacher know some key things about him, right at the start of the year. We were often encouraged to wait until an IEP meeting, however those don’t typically happen until a few weeks into the school year.

I wrote a letter one year. I created a little (big) chart another. I wrote another letter along with a face to face another year. It all seemed overwhelming – for me AND for the teacher.

So I was thinking. What if we had a “cheat sheet” that we could give our child’s teacher on the first day of school. Not something five pages long (although you will likely have one of these sent home from the school to complete at some point). No, I’m talking about a quick and BRIEF info sheet that highlights some very key things about your child that you believe are important for the teacher to know. Well, you know what happens when I start thinking about something…it doesn’t take long before I start creating!

First though, I wanted to check with some educators to find out what kind of information they would like to have from parents on the first day. I had a few of my contacts send me their thoughts, and I incorporated these into the Info Sheet. We had some interesting conversations about the importance of communication right from day one.

I reflected that on those first days of school, I was always hesitant to approach the teacher because I knew he/she would be very busy with getting everything started with the new school year. I worried that I would overwhelm them (see above) or worse, I would scare them with too many details. I was also concerned about how I would be perceived as a parent. When we share information about our child, we put ourselves in a very vulnerable position. One of the hardest things we do is trust the people we are sharing information with. Most of the time it works out, but other times, well…those experiences sit with us.

The teachers I connected with shared that they often want to hear from parents, but they don’t want to push for too much information for fear they be perceived as asking questions that are too personal. They want to work in partnership with parents, but those first days of communication can sometimes be difficult.

I’m hoping this new Info Sheet can act as a catalyst to building a strong foundation of communication and collaboration between you and your child’s school this upcoming year. You can print it off and complete each section with information relevant to your child.

A few things. The spaces are small, and that is on purpose. The goal here is to be as specific, but brief as possible with the information you share. It is just a snap shot, giving your child’s teacher a quick overview, in advance of more in depth information sharing that will come later. The largest space on the Info sheet is to write down your child’s strengths and interests. That’s on purpose! Fill that space up – and make sure you celebrate all those strengths with your child.

I hope you will find this to be a helpful tool as you prepare for back to school with your child. Don’t forget to check out the other Champions Tip Sheets on the #Top 5 Tips page.

(Need a cheat sheet for other activities besides school? Click here to grab the generic cheat sheet!)

Back to School Cheat Sheet General (1)
Click here to download the Fillable pdf version of the Cheat Sheet

Is your child older and ready to venture into advocating for him/herself? Here is a cheat sheet just for them!

Back to School Cheat Sheet (Self Advocate)
Click here to download the Fillable Youth version of the Cheat Sheet




  1. Hi Karen I hope you don’t mind (think forgiveness before permission) but I shared this cheat sheet – actually a link back to this page – with the members of the self regulation foundations course I’m taking through The Mehrit Institute (Dr. Stuart Shanker). It’s a series of 4 on-line courses out of TMC in Ontario and runs 28 weeks. Upon completion there is a certification in Shanker Self-Reg. The course has been better, and more intense than I’d expected. The need to listen to parents has come up as a regular theme and of course my mind came back to this cheat sheet you posted in Aug.
    Thank you for your advocacy work. You are making a difference.
    BTW, this course is also open for parents. I’ve thought of you several times throughout the different modules – weird seeing as we’ve never even met. Here’s a link in case it’s something you’d be interested in.



    • Of course it’s okay 🙂 My vision with the tip sheets is that they should be accessible to all, so I am very happy you shared! I will check out the link for sure, thanks for thinking of me. Are you at TEDxLangley in January? Maybe we can finally meet then 🙂


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