A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

November 6, 2008

Five Ways to Improve Your Child’s School Achievement

A little bit about me and why I post these tidbits. I am an Assistant Principal of a fairly large, 1256 student, middle school in New York. Prior to taking this position I had served as a teacher in elementary (primary, intermediate) middle school and high school for over 20 years. Throw in five years in the US Army and five children, and you have a pretty varied life experience profile. Everyday I deal with children who are usually struggling in school due to discipline and academics, and yes, the two are usually related.
If I could give advice to parents, particularly of parents of kids in the middle school range, here would be my top ten tips. Remember, as a parent you are ultimately responsible for “your child’s” education. It is not solely up to the school.

1) Make time to talk about you children’s day at school everyday. Do not accept this standard conversation which takes place probably EVERY night in 90% of the homes in the US.
Parent: How was school today?
Child: Fine.
Parent: What did you do today?
Child: Nothing.

Make your child talk about what they learned today. Ask them how the lesson was taught. Ask them about their homework and if they understand their assignments.

2) Set a designated time and place for homework assignments. Do “NOT” let your child work in their room unsupervised. You, the parent, have no way to see if in reality your youngster is truly doing their work, or going through the motions. Make sure that this designated space is relatively quiet and that you have adequate supplies available. You the parent set the environment, not the child.

3) Regularly go through your youngster’s agenda and planner book. Make sure that he/she is filling it out accurately and that there are assignments written down in some consistent manner. Most students will have independent work opportunities three to four times a week (that’s homework). Insist that homework be completed.

4) Make a calendar for tests and major projects. For students transitioning from elementary to middle school, the task of having one teacher delivering content instruction, to having four to five teachers who deliver content area instruction is overwhelming in “most” cases. Make sure that you know when the tests are given.

5) If you have a question ASK THE TEACHER. I am amazed at how many parents accept “I don’t know” from their children when they ask a question. You’d be amazed at how many times educators hear that also. If you can’t get a straight answer from your child, call the school and ask the teacher to call you. You’d be surprised, it is rare that a teacher will not be “thrilled” that you want to know what is going on so you can support your teacher.

Parenting is work and a responsibility. My feeling is that in a child’s education is analogous of a three legged stool, which are composed of the parents, the teachers, and administrator. We all agree that we want the child to succeed. Of course there may be conflict. Just remember you’re a team and that means you need to work together to succeed. That means mature conversations and shared expectations.

Maybe this is a bit oversimplistic, but if your child is not meeting their potential put checks next to what you are doing. If you didn’t check four or more, your grade failed.

Don’t worry, I talk to the teachers next time!

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