It’s the first week of December and while our students probably have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, parents will be filled with emotion as they open the tightly sealed brown envelopes coming home in their kids’ backpacks. Joy for some, disappointment for others. Yes, report cards are here.
This week, parents across Newfoundland and Labrador are being herded to parent-teacher interviews and either rewarding or supporting their child in their academic achievement after the fall reporting period.
Education is a complex topic, and the needs of individual students are even more tantalizing. However, as the demands on our schools continue to increase, it is imperative that parents and the community partner with our teachers to help our children achieve. So, you ask, what can I do to support my child? Well, if your child is a student who excels in all subject areas, congratulations. Nevertheless, this student still needs strong encouragement to challenge himself or herself to enrich their learning. Therefore, this may be the time to speak with your child’s teacher to identify advanced material that may be appropriate to their abilities; you may even consider focusing on soft skills such as time management or service learning.
If your child is struggling, or if you believe they are not trying their best, they may need additional practice in certain subject areas. Research suggests that strategies such as showing an interest in homework, providing a suitable workspace with minimal distractions and encouraging routine homework times all lead to improved academic performance.
Rewarding positive behaviour in areas of improved grades and other academic successes has also been proven to support student achievement.
Many parents approach parent-teacher interviews almost as a doctor’s office checkup, where the doctor will simply tell you what is wrong and will medicate the problem by handing you a prescription — however, parent-teacher interviews are a two-way street. To get the most out of them, be sure to prepare some questions in advance. Consider asking things such as, “How are my child’s work habits?” “Does my child read at the level you would expect from this grade?” or “What can I do at home to help my child be more successful at school?”
Remember that your child is the focus of this process, so before the meeting, ask them to tell you what they think are their best and worst subjects and if they have any questions they would like for you to ask. When you return home, discuss the results of the conference with your child and stress the positive comments made by the teacher. Talk about any suggestions made by the teacher for improvement and then come up with a plan to carry these out.
An interested, informed parent is an asset to both child and teacher. A strong educational partnership between home and school creates a positive school experience for students of all ages, including teenagers. Quite often these students try to discourage their parents from becoming involved in their school by saying “nobody else’s parents will be there” or that it’s “uncool.”
Despite this, research has shown that academic achievement of students is strongly correlated with parental involvement in school life, and that junior and senior high school students actually appreciate that their parents care enough to be involved (even though they’ll never admit it). According to the 2008 Duke review, the role of the parent in coaching their children towards their future and academics is five times more powerful during the high school years. Parents who are involved in volunteering produce children who become volunteers later in life — because they see the value and reward in giving their time to the school and their children.
From connecting with your child’s teacher several times per year on an issue that arises, to serving on your local school council, partnerships between the home and school are vital to supporting each child’s success. When families, teachers and schools find ways to work together, student achievement improves, teacher morale rises, and family, school and community connections multiply.
Nathan Whalen is president of the
Newfoundland and Labrador Federation
of School Councils.