By: Dr. Gwen Smith
It is that time of year when kids are back in school. For some parents it’s a relief from having to babysit the children throughout the summer, and for others, it may be a nightmare of endless phone calls and school follow up sessions to just keep your child on task and focusing on what’s important to avoid failure for yet another year. If you are in the latter group, it may be a stressful time of year for you. And perhaps there is something that you are not aware of.
As a former school administrator, professor and researcher, I have some tips that could help you to start looking and making a difference in the levels of success your child will have this year. These are just a few of the possible areas to start looking, which may open up other avenues for you to explore.
For one, there are a handful of reasons why kids do not succeed in school: lack of having their basic needs met, social or emotional issues at school or at home, having a disability or a need that impacts learning in the current classroom structure, absence of foundational skills that are necessary to grasp higher learning concepts, and believe it or not, high expectations of their success.
The latter includes so many levels and yet is the one that may be easily overlooked by parents and educators alike. The purpose of this blog is to empower parents to have conversations with schools as well as to become aware of what they may or may not be doing at home and in their child’s school to influence their child’s success.
High Expectations is defined as “the establishment of challenging goals and the pressure to achieve (Smith, 2005, Marzano, 2003). The ultimate goal is to accomplish positive results. This will look a bit differently at home as well as in the classroom. Since we are focusing on school learning, the discussion will focus on what parents can do at home and school to support success in student performance.
In the classroom, teachers generating high expectations will have a firm belief that regardless of any limitations students have, they can and are expected to rise to the challenge of learning. In doing so, their behaviors towards their students, will often be communicated through what’s called the hidden curriculum (not the intended curriculum), and students will in turn reflect, and rise up to, the levels of expectation teachers have for them (Rosenthal, 1963). The same is true for parents. Your child most likely will never perform above the level of the expectations you set for him.
As a parent, and your child’s primary advocate, you can raise this topic with your child’s teacher to generate awareness. Unfortunately, very few teachers are aware of the impact of their behaviors on their students’ achievement. Generating awareness can lead to partnership between home and school.
Too often this possible partnership is overlooked as educators and teachers alike play the blame game. It is necessary to establish partnership with your child’s teachers, for elementary school-aged kids and very importantly, for kids who are in middle and high school. Parents become weary and behave as though it is the teacher’s sole responsibility, and teachers become resigned and frustrated, citing that parents do not care. The child is the one who suffers.
In reality, both can support the efforts of the other recognizing the constraints of time that each has. Within the structure of a blocked classroom schedule, some students may need more time to learn the concepts. A great teacher will find creative means to help the child learn the concepts and sometimes this is done by forming a partnership between home and school. Parents this is where you can become proactive if the teacher is not reaching out. Call, email, send a note or text the teacher to make arrangements for a conversation.
Be present as often as you can, even if it means every day at school and at home. Being present many not require a physical presence, and if it does, be ready to do that; you ought to however be completely up-to-date and aware of what is going on with your child in school at every moment. Place mid-term and end of term dates in your calendar and ask for the reports. Every child gets a mid-term and end of year report. Find out from the teacher how often tests and quizzes are given, and place those dates in your calendar, then ask for the grades when the time comes around. Great teachers love parents that are involved, so you cannot become a burden if you are supporting your child to get what he or she needs.
Have whatever conversations you need to have with your supervisor about why it is important to be present for your child’s activities in school. Make arrangements to come in earlier or to stay later to make things work. When your child sees your level of engagement about his or her schooling, it communicates that their schooling is important and they will want to do better. There are very few children who will get that on their own, so get on the court and show them that it matters. Expect good grades, put supports in place and then hold them accountable consistently.
Some tips on doing this could be granting certain non-monetary privileges when they have met the mark. I never recommend paying students for grades. It could back-fire for some children causing them to rely on money as an extrinsic reward for their achievements. Later the desire to perform may disappear if there is no monetary reward. You can help them generate the benefits of having good grades so that this becomes more intrinsic for them: For example, when they do well in school, they get to progress to the next grade level with their friends, they can get certain privileges of being with their friends for longer, instead of having to spend extra time getting caught up on things they did not do earlier, etcetera. Find out what motivates your child and work to associate how having good grades can impact their progress towards that.
This is a conversation to generate some thoughts on what can be possible. The bottom line is that educators owe it to you as parent and your child to do whatever is necessary to have them be successful in school, and you as parent for the rest of your child’s life; the one who has to deal with the lack, need or delinquency failure, should make it your priority to advocate and support your child towards success. Get on the court now and call the school if you have not yet done it. Please subscribe to the Dr. Gwen Show on iTunes to listen.
Let me know your thoughts!