It’s a new school year. You’ve met the teacher and might have already had Open House at your kids’ school, now what? Becoming a partner in education goes beyond becoming the PTA president. As a public school teacher and mom, I have a few tips on the best ways to help your student at home.
Homework time. Homework is dreaded by parents even more than students. This is not your homework, this should be a time for your student to practice, to see what they know or do not know. Yes, you might want to sit with them for some help. A re-explanation at home can help reinforce classroom learning. If your student can’t do something, you need to make sure the teacher knows. Doing the work for them is not helping anyone, though tempting when it is taking too long and the family to-do list is waiting! The same goes for projects.
Communicate with the teacher in a positive fashion. Teachers are not out to get students! I remind my students giving everyone all A’s would be even easier in my job, but that is not my job! With teacher’s schedules usually dictated down to the minute during the school day, e-mail is usually the easier way to contact them, however ask at open house. E-mail is a great way to give a teacher a heads up, such as with homework. A quick note saying, Hey Johnny had a really hard time last night, do you have any resources I could use to help him at home? Also, teachers need to be aware of big changes in the personal life of students. A death or divorce in the family can dramatically affect how a student acts in class, even if they are acting fine at home.
Conflict as Learning. As with any relationship, there might be a point when there is a conflict. This is a place where parents play a much bigger role model than a teacher can. If our kids have problems at school, we are very quick to go and fix it for them. Instead, work with your student about how to handle, even maybe coaching, depending on age, of what to say the next day. Jenny might not understand her test or essay grade. Instead of e-mailing the teacher demanding an explanation, have your student learn to appropriately ask the teacher for further explanation. This gives them a learning experience that goes beyond a letter grade on an assignment.
Be a snoop. I’m not saying break into diaries, but look at your children’s work. If you have older children, take a look at notes and notebooks. Instead of accepting the “nothing” answer for “what did you do today”, spark conversations about what you are seeing. You will learn a lot about students by looking at their notes. Are they legible? If not, maybe a discussion on slowing down, or maybe note-taking tips. Can your student talk about the topic beyond reciting what is in the notes? This is what tells you if they ‘get it’. The days of school being rote practice are gone, it’s about training the mind to think critically. I have heard many times from parents, “I know they studied”. Check-in with them, are they studying or just staring at notes? Staring won’t get them far, but a discussion will.
Let them make mistakes. Sounds silly, but do not be so focused on your student getting into to Harvard in 6th grade that they do not feel they can make a mistake. Your student needs to take risks and chances to learn. They will stop taking those chances if they think it is all about having a 100 in every class. Push them to their best, but realize how much you learned from your mistakes. Talk about your mistakes in school, but don’t take every opportunity for them to learn from their own mistakes away from them.
Ashley is a wife, mom, and Middle School teacher. She spends most days trying to balance being a full-time teacher and mom, and realizing those lines blur, constantly.