For parents, nothing brightens their day more than seeing their children succeed. There are many ways for parents to contribute to this success, without being too overbearing on their children. Jessica Morey, mother of three and current Advanced Placement government and economics teacher at Buchholz High School, provides five tips to help your children succeed at school.
- Read at home
Reading with children at a young age helps them develop their vocabulary, which gives them the foundation for success at higher education levels. However, increasing numbers of children are not receiving this early stimulation. Parents can utilize book sales and libraries to bring books into the home. Reading aloud and setting an example through your own pleasurable reading are also key strategies, Morey said.
“In elementary school, I was pushed to ‘read a little, learn a lot — then read a little more,’” Morey said. “I still think that is great wisdom to live by.”
- Listen to your child
“Nothing” is the cliché response from children when asked what they did at school.
“While this is true for some parents, my kids have a lot to say about their day,” Morey said. “By a lot, I should mention that one of my children has been given an American Indian nickname She-Who-Tells-Long-Stories.”
It is easy for busy parents to zone out during stories, so remind yourself to listen and understand what your child has to say, Morey advised.
“I remember my parents ‘listening’ without hearing me, and I think there is nothing more frustrating for a child,” she said. “Make time to listen.”
- Understand that your child is not you
Interests and skills are unique to each individual, Morey said.
“My husband and I were both high achievers, and success came easy for us,” she said. “When I first became a teacher, I learned that not everyone shares that joy for school. Don’t burden your child with expectations you had for yourself. Recognize their strengths and passions, and don’t be upset if those don’t align with yours.”
- Realize that learning is what matters; grades are just the means to an end
“This is probably the biggest problem I see in the education system today,” Morey said.
Children applying for competitive positions as early as fifth grade can prompt parents to become grade-obsessed, especially when they can monitor grades online. A desire to learn should take precedence over a desire for good grades. Teachers can recognize a disconnect between what is accomplished at home and what can be done independently in the classroom. Parents should focus on what their children achieve when they exert high levels of effort and let them be responsible for themselves. Above all, Morey advises parents to focus on learning rather than on grades.
- Encourage healthy habits at home
Stress-induced anxiety is becoming more prevalent in students. Parents can regulate healthy food, exercise and sleep to help reduce stress from school. These good habits work wonders for children and adults alike. As with reading, setting a healthy example may help your children tame anxiety and develop healthy coping methods. Most parents can judge what their children would benefit from, despite preexisting routines.
“If it’s the first warm, beautiful afternoon, encourage them to play outside or go on a walk with your teen or tween,” Morey said. “There are also several books about mindfulness that parents may find beneficial to read with their children.”
What can a teacher do to help students get the most out of school?
“I think the best thing that teachers can do is to be clear from the beginning of the course,” Morey said. “In my Advanced Placement courses, I know I am working with the goal to help each student pass their exam.”
Students usually want to know why they are given each assignment and how it relates to their studies. The “Understanding by Design” concept allows educators to begin with a desired result and work backward to formulate the curriculum. When students are aware of the end goal, they can better understand how assignments benefit them.
“The idea, again, is to focus on learning,” Morey said.