Connecting with Teachers and Students
Now that school has begun, children and teachers are gradually adjusting to their new classrooms. Students in middle and high school are acclimating to their travels to many classrooms during each day. They are learning in each subject, getting homework, and will soon have tests and quizzes. Many are wondering what they need to do to succeed without becoming overwhelmed.
As a parent, you probably want to be involved and helpful without being a nag or overbearing. How do you find a happy medium?
Attend back-to-school night
There is no substitute for meeting each teacher, learning about what will be covered this year or quarter, and finding out what each teacher expects. If you missed back-to-school night, look over the slides or recording and connect with the teacher by Zoom or email.
Assess IEP and 504 Plans
If your child has one of these plans, it may be helpful to have a team meeting with all of your child’s teachers to make sure each teacher becomes familiar with the plan. You can also share what worked well (and didn’t) last year, as well as your child’s strengths, struggles, and best strategies for reaching your child.
Find out basic expectations
How much time is your child expected to spend doing homework for each subject each day? Is incomplete schoolwork expected to be completed at home? If so, that can increase homework overload. Is homework completion a part of the grade? It may count towards effort only. You as the parent may be able to work with your child and teacher to reduce the homework load if needed. Do you have any additional questions about expectations? Contact the teacher.
Measure how much time it takes your child to do homework compared the to the teacher’s expectations. If your child takes longer to do homework than expected, it could be because they don’t understand the assignment or material, are distracted, or are slow at processing. It is important to monitor homework early before your child gets discouraged, and take action if your child seems overwhelmed.
Communicate with Teachers
Ask each teacher what works best – email, a phone call, or video meeting. If your child is in middle or high school, they should be corresponding with the teachers themselves and find out the best mode of communication. If they have questions about assignments, what will be on a test, or whether they can do fewer math problems, they should feel comfortable approaching the teacher.
When I was a student teacher at a private school, we gave students written evaluations instead of grades. One of the most valuable things I learned was to always start with something positive. No parent wants to read all negatives about their child. Teachers are human, too, and when emailing a teacher, it is productive to start with something positive and try not to complain. Instead, try a positive approach like asking what your child can do to best access the material. Remember that teachers are busy; keep your email succinct, perhaps using bullet points.
Learn how to get good grades
Grading assignments and tests can be subjective. Students who want to receive good grades must be clear on what the teacher expects. If an essay is returned with a grade that seems too low, this is an opportunity for the student to set a meeting with the teacher to see what they can adjust to advance to a higher score. Many teachers are available after school to assist students individually.
Ask your children what you can do to help
I recently heard an interesting story about a teenage girl who complained that her parents helped too much with her essay writing, so that she was losing her voice. Meanwhile, the parents complained that their daughter asked for too much help and wasn’t self-sufficient. If your child is frustrated with an assignment, before jumping in, ask, “How can I help?”
Be available, but keep your distance
Many years ago, before I had my own children, I wrote an article called “Whose Homework is it?” Looking back, I think my old advice still applies. Homework is the student’s job, but parents can be available as consultants. If your child needs more help than you can give, give us a call. See comments from other parents on how to ease the homework burden from ADDitude Magazine.
By Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success, Inc.