In January, everyone welcomes the new year, new resolves, new opportunities. New.New. New.
School in January? Old. Old. Old.
The eager freshness of August and September is gone. The calendar countdown for Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays, gone. The school year is out of sync with the calendar year, and January can be a slump month for students and teachers who have four or five months to lap before they reach the finish line.
As a high school teacher for the past twenty-five years, I intended to share a few gems on how parents can help their students stay in the race. But it occurred to me, thankfully before the post, that perhaps consulting the runners might be insightful. And so, I asked my Advanced Composition class, all seniors, to share with you how they felt their parents could best help them. Some of what they say, you may not agree with. But, as a parent and a teacher, reading what they have to say goes a long way in training them for their next marathon.
* I always found praise helps. I do like to get feedback from my parents, like, “Great job!” or “I’m proud of you.”
* I appreciate when my mom tells me stories about her school experiences. She tries to relate my complaints about teachers and other things by telling me her stories, and it makes me feel a whole lot better.
* Bribing has always motivated me. Being the nerd I am, however, I would get a book for every A. My little brother gets a videogame for every two A’s and for every five B’s. (Some students shared they receive money for A and/or B grades)
* Love and attention are more important than grades, their future or money.
* No bribery. It leads to dependence. Teach motivation from internal sources.
* Facebook, the internet and video games being removed will not fix anything. The tools aren’t to blame, it’s the user. Give kids the motivation to change their mind sets, and everything else in their lives, not just school, will fall into place.
* Don’t freak over grades too much. Some discipline is necessary, but if it’s too much, they feel like failures.
* Be happy about good grades. I’ve heard of some parents who don’t get excited if their C average student gets an A or B. A “good job” and a hug are very important so the kid knows his/her parents care. If the kid gets a bad grade, encourage him/her to do better.
* It doesn’t help to get angry over bad grades and yell. It helps when my parents talk with me, and ask me what I’m having problems with, and then they try to help me.
* Let your kids decide what they want to do with their lives. Don’t tell them your negative opinions about their college majors or pathways of their futures. It sways their decisions because, in reality, they want to make their parents proud.
* Encourage them in everything they do.
* Let them vent to you. Open them up, but don’t annoy them. Actually care about their lives.
* Watch from a distance. Step in if there’s a problem like not doing well in a class.
* Don’t do your child’s homework. Just help.
* Emphasize prioritizing and deeply reflecting on it. School isn’t important because it’s school, but because what school, an education, allows you to do. Today, you need a skill for something so you can support yourself, live your life more, and worry less about materialistic needs. For me, hearing, “You need to get good grades to support yourself,” is a turn-off. Get real with me. Don’t explain how school is life, but how life simply includes school. It’s nothing more than what today’s society requires for you to live (the life you want).
* Give us tips on what we can do to improve.
* Be interested, but not over-involved. Asking how much homework I have is all right, but wanting to know what happened in every class is too much. A general, “How was your day?” is good.
* Saying you’re proud of your children for doing well improves their confidence in themselves.
* Let us have our own opinions on things involving school.
COMMUNICATING WITH TEACHERS
* I think phone conferences are best. In-person meetings are too overbearing, but email seems too impersonal.
* Email teachers but only for a serious problem, not to ask why a child is missing an assignment.
* If you must contact teachers, call them. That way it’s an immediate response instead of waiting for an email and taking that frustration out on us. And please tell us if you’re going to call our teacher before you do so we’re not blindsided.
* Get involved in their school.
* Get involved in PTA or at least go to meetings.
* Know the principal. Better yet, make sure the principal knows the parents.
* Monitor from a distance, but don’t get too in-depth. Monitor grades and kids without making your presence known.
* Be involved in school activities.
* Please don’t monitor us. Procrastination is our decision. Just punish us when we fail.
One of the most interesting bits of information that I gleaned involved lunch. To a student, they wished their parents still made lunch for them and those whose parents do, hope they don’t stop. One student raved about the lunches his father fixes for him every morning. Another shared how much she appreciates her mother taking the time to put her lunch together. And these are seniors, on the verge of graduating.
I found myself nodding as they spoke because I’m thrilled when my husband makes lunch for me! Listening to them, I realized it’s not about the lunch. It’s about someone they care for, caring for them. And when a sandwich can mean that much, just think of the opportunities waiting in a loaf of bread.
Information on helicopter parenting
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