The school year is now in full swing, and excitement is settling into routine. The nervousness of making new friends, meeting teachers, and navigating the social scene has shifted into jitters about quizzes, tests, and making good grades. Thus begins the challenge for both parents and students alike—to achieve success. They say that past performance is a strong indicator for future success. How does your child’s path look? Are you happy with the direction in which he or she is headed or do you need to stop and regroup? When do you ask for help?
As an educator and tutor for over 20 years, I have some tips to share, some questions you can ask yourself, and avenues to pursue if you find your child struggling in school. From the youngest child to the college graduate, students need structure. Remember, they are just that—students. They need guidance, support, and help along the way. Just as great artisans, athletes, and musicians need tools to enrich their performance, the academic arena is no different. As parents, we are their first teacher, mentor, and advocate. Helping them is our job. How, you ask?
Teach your kids at a young age how to be organized with their folders and papers. Don’t tell them to do it, show them. Nicely. Open the lines of communication with their teachers. Don’t tell them to go talk to the teacher. Show them how. Let your child practice asking for help at home and how to ask the right questions. It is our responsibility to demonstrate how to communicate effectively. Take a deep breath, find your patience, and show them that you are there to help.
If you have children in elementary and middle school, are you reviewing their homework every night? Yes, every night! I don’t mean asking them if they’ve completed it. I mean physically holding their notebooks and reviewing their work. Look at everything. Even if you don’t comprehend sigma from pi, ask to see what they are learning. Every night. Look at all quizzes, tests, and notes. Believe it or not, teachers make mistakes too, so it’s to your benefit to save all of their work each semester. This also helps when reviewing for exams.
Now that you are monitoring schoolwork on a daily basis, always ask if your child can re-test if he or she has failed a quiz or exam. Is it not the purpose to ensure mastery of a skill before moving on to the next chapter? Don’t wait until the end of the grading period to seek assistance. Teachers are there to help and want their students to succeed as well. Ask about before and after-school review sessions. Find out if there are study-buddies in your school. Are there computer programs that go along with the curriculum that they could be practicing at home? Help them find success.
What if your child is performing at a “C” level, borderline at best. Do you need a tutor? Sometimes boosting his or her study habits or having someone re-teach in a different manner can result in success. Having a plan with your tutor and child is just as important. Don’t stop the tutoring sessions once your child scores above a C on a test. Your child’s success may depend on consistent sessions with a tutor.
Please do not wait until the night before an exam to find a tutor! I’ve been called for more “emergency” tutor sessions than I can count. Can you imagine trying to teach a chapter’s worth of mathematics in one hour’s session? After 50 minutes of intense instruction, most students need to take a mental break—not to mention they need to complete other class assignments, after-school activities, and get a good night’s rest.
Don’t ask the teacher for extra credit if your child hasn’t done the classroom assignments. This is where we go back to the beginning of every semester; monitor your child’s progress. With technology today, you can manage your child’s grades in a variety of levels on a daily basis.
Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Take off the straight jacket that’s preventing you from beginning a new action plan. You may not be able to correct what’s been done up until today, but you can certainly finish the semester stronger than you started.
My final word of advice: be careful of what you say to your child. When you say you were never good in math, you are providing your children with an excuse before they’ve even begun! They then blame their poor grades and lack of motivation on you. Provide your child with all of the available resources to achieve success.
With the numerous tools to provide remedial help or extra practice, you can help your child succeed. Tutors, before- and after-school review sessions, study-buddies, on-line tutorials, teacher remediation, etc. are just a few avenues to pursue if you find yourself in need. Show interest, set goals, practice daily, and find success! May your paths be filled with miles of accomplishments.
Carey Averill holds an advanced degree in education and school counseling and has taught for the Department of Defense in Germany, South Korea, and the U.S. She is a mother of two, a military wife, and currently resides in Virginia Beach.