Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Students Success at School Depends A LOT on Parents

I get the Better Homes and Gardens magazine every month and was pleasantly surprised to see an article titled, "Class Rules for Parents" by Denise Schipani. The article discussed the importance of being involved with your students education as they grow older, but how being a helicopter mom (one who hovers) does more harm than good.
"According to a 1992 study published by the Educational Testing Service, factors that parents can control -- namely, preventing absenteeism, providing a variety of reading materials at home, and limiting television watching -- accounted for nearly 90 percent of the difference in eighth-grade mathematics test scores. The message is clear: What goes on at home has a major impact on how children perform at school." (Get Involved in Your Child's Education)
Despite this fact, too much can be, too much. Schipani states that "... the right kind of involvement is key." I couldn't agree more. The last five years I've been teaching junior high and high school students and I've seen them all. (Them = Parents) The helicopter mom's who wanted to know where their student was going to be and when and why and who else was going to be there and why an assignment was assigned, or why this was graded this way, or why do teachers do it this way and not that... and believe me, I could go on and on and on. You talk about mastering the eye roll every time you get a message from one of these. But you have the other extreme - parents who want nothing to do with their child's education or discipline. What happens at school is for the teachers and administration to deal with, what happens at home, stays at home, the two do not mesh. Usually, in this case there's not a lot of involvement in the students life at home either. Finding that middle ground is difficult and tricky. Thankfully the article Get Involved in Your Child's Education on the Better Homes and Gardens Website offers some helpful tips.

"Class Rules for Parents" by Denis Schipani also offers great tips as well (I just added some details from a teachers perspective):
  • Ask questions early. That means going to the open house and asking what your child might need for the class, find out if the teacher as a syllabus, a grading policy, discipline policy, etc. Nine times out of ten the principle requires that the teachers have this paper work and if they are prepared they will be happy to offer these to you and USUALLY they are given to your student the first week of school. (At least, I made sure the students had that information and brought back a signed copy to mom and dad.)
  • Mediate from a distance. I love this one because Schipani advises that even if there are problems with a teacher from the beginning you may not need to get involved immediately. Offer some suggestions to your student on how to handle the problem on their own. You are trying to raise an independent young adult who needs to start fending for themselves. If this doesn't work and problems still exist. Call the teacher, you may be surprised there were missing pieces from the story you were getting at home. :)
  • Don't play the blame game. Same as above. Call the teacher, because the disciplinary action taken by the teacher may have been necessary. Discuss the event with the teacher, tell the teacher what you were told, and see what the teacher says. Usually, when parents called to discuss the matter with me and began the conversation that way, I'd say something like, "Hmmm. Well, certain details were left out in the story you were told. Let me explain."
  • Know how to get in touch - and how not to. For me I was easiest to call or email. My planning period was at the end of the day and the pile of paperwork and the long list of "to do" items grew rather heftily by this time. Plus, as a coach this is when I spent much of my time preparing for practice that would follow. I was easiest to contact by leaving a detailed message and waiting for me to return the message in the evening hours. Find out what works best for your teacher and try not to bother them too much. Involved teachers do not have a 40 hour week like most believe.
  • Accept cause and effect. Ugh. So agree with this one. There were certain consequences that came in to play for behaving a certain way and parents were ALWAYS trying to come up with stupid excuses for their student or wanting special treatment for their bundle of joy. Nope. My response? "If you refer to my discipline and grading policy on the syllabus given to you at the beginning of the year, that you signed, I said that if this happens, this will be the consequence." I never apologized for it either. Schipani advises that the best thing you can do to help your student is find out what went wrong and make a plan on how to prevent it from happening again. The best quote in the article is from Marcia Tate who wrote Preparing Children for Success in School and Life, "Getting good grades is one thing, even better is earning them." Couldn't agree more.
These strategies are life skills. You won't always be there to smooth things over when something goes wrong for your child at work or in their marriage, etc. etc. Get involved, but give them some problem solving skills so they do not fail at LIFE.

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