As a parent, how do you remember your time spent as a student in school? Do you smile when you think of your carefree elementary days, cringe when you think of all your awkward junior high/middle school moments, or relish in the memory of the teenage glory that was high school? Perhaps you are a parent working hard to finish a degree or a guardian choosing to homeschool and haven’t completely left your school days behind.
No matter how you remember your days as a student, your attitude towards homework – especially reading – will affect the way your children learn. Unless you are homeschooling, teachers are there to help your child learn and they can provide a multitude of tips for parents on how to stay involved and keep children learning.
Here a few things teachers would like their students’ parents to keep in mind:
Stay involved. Unfortunately, teachers can’t be there after school to make sure homework and projects get done, and last I heard, the homework fairy retired. This is where parents have a direct impact on their child’s education. Parents have to actively enforce homework. Ask your child what they’ve been working on in class. A great way to start homework out on a positive note is by letting your child show off their reading, writing, and spelling skills to you. Spending time reading with your child is so crucial to their development – ask them to read aloud to you, but make sure to do the same for them so they also get to hear the language.
Be a model. Children are going to listen to what you have to say about their teachers and about school in general, so make sure you pass on the concept that education is important and deserves time and dedication. If they see you reaching for a book in your spare time, they’ll likely form the same habit as they grow up. More than anyone else – peers and teachers included – children are going to be impacted the most by their parents’ examples. Keep a positive attitude about school.
Recognize and respect teachers. It’s important to realize how much teachers are giving to help your child learn and grow. Teachers are at school well before the first bell rings and long after the last. Most teachers care a lot about being the best they can be, so make sure to give recognition and respect where it is deserved.
Communicate! I thought this point deserved an exclamation point because it is a big one. It is so important that parents attend parent-teacher conferences, but that is not enough. Make sure to attend the open houses at your child’s school at the beginning of each year. Personally introduce yourself to the teacher and let them know you are a parent who cares and wants to be involved. Make sure to have the teacher’s e-mail address on file so that you can have a line of contact. If you communicate well with your child’s teacher, you will stay directly involved in their development and progress. Don’t be afraid to ask your child’s teacher for suggestions on what level of books your child should be reading and what books you should be reading together. Teachers spend a lot of time helping your child learn, so they can offer great advice on reading techniques that will work for your individual child’s needs.
Involve your children. While we’re on the topic of parent-teacher conferences, note that it is important to bring your child to these meetings as well, especially if they are secondary students. Keeping children in the loop is important for a few reasons, mainly because it gives them a voice in their education. Having them along also gives them a chance to see that you as a parent care about them and are involved, plus it makes them feel extra special when they get to see their teacher brag to you about all the good things they have been doing in class.
Don’t miss school! This is another point that deserves an exclamation point. Absences are a BIG problem. Missing a day is less of a big deal than missing a week, but any absence should try to be avoided. The problem with absences is that children miss their daily lessons and work, and then it is stressful for them to try and catch up on what they have missed fast so that they can understand what the rest of the class is learning. It is so important to try and plan vacations around holidays and other times when schools have days off. If your child is going to be absent, especially for vacations, talk and plan with teachers ahead of time so that 1) teachers know what to expect and 2) you two can work out a plan for your child to manage their homework load. Bottom line – one of the fastest ways to put your child behind is to constantly pull them out of school.
Stay Organized. So many children come to school without their homework because they left it on the kitchen table the night before. Implement a pre-bedtime routine where kids get their backpacks ready for the next day. Set up a tray in the kitchen where kids can leave important papers or graded homework assignments for you to look at as well. Make it a habit and a routine that kids can count on to get to read with you before bedtime. Their reading will progress and they will feel closer to you as you guys bond over a story.
Stay calm. If a problem comes up at school, especially if your child is telling you about something that happened with a teacher or with another student, it is important to remember to stay calm and talk to the teacher first. So many parents listen to their children talk about how “mean” a teacher is and then go straight to the principal to accuse the teacher of bullying. Children are afraid of getting in trouble and will sometimes make things sound different to avoid punishment. By all means, do not ever discount the importance of what your child is telling you, but for most problems, try approaching the teacher first in a non-attacking manner. Don’t go to the principal with a problem unless you have already spoken to a teacher and have gotten the facts. Teachers want your child’s success too.
Don’t be invasive. Don’t ambush teachers at school expecting to meet with them right that very moment, especially if school is still going on. Emergencies are obvious exceptions, but always do your best to try and schedule meetings or even phone calls to talk about your child. E-mail is such a great way to get in touch with teachers, especially since it allows them to respond in their spare moments. If your child is struggling or if you are concerned about something perhaps set up a check-in schedule with a teacher based on how often you would like to meet and what their schedule allows.
Accept mistakes. When it comes to homework assignments, don’t expect perfection from your children. As a parent, you want your child to do the best they can, but don’t allow yourself to end up doing the work for them just for the sake of getting a better grade. If they have a big project, encourage them to take the lead. If the end result is a poster board with pictures glued on a little bit crooked, make sure to let your children know you are proud that they gave it their all, even if it is not perfect by adult standards. If it seems like your child is making a lot of mistakes on their homework, encourage them to ask their teacher for help the next day. This way, teachers know where students are struggling and where they need to direct their focus.
Thank teachers. Last but not least, make sure to thank teachers. If a teacher did a great job with your child and even went above-and-beyond (as most teachers do), let them know that. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way. You could even let the principal know about times when a teacher did something really great.
If you would like to learn more specifically about what you need to know to help your child become a successful reader, check out our free e-book and get reading!