Help Your Kids Succeed at School
Following are seven tips on to succeed in middle school. They are all important, but as a teacher, I think the first two are the most valuable for parents.
Teach Them How to Apply What They Learn In School to the Real World
How many times have you heard your child complain that nothing they do in school matters? Or been asked, “I’ll never use this, why do I have to do it?" Start looking for ways for your children to apply what they do at school in the real world. For example, take your child with you to the grocery store and have them calculate cost per unit of items to find the best deal. You’re reinforcing long division in a way that really matters.
As a teacher, I personally think this is a great thing for parents to do. Teachers just don’t always have the opportunity to actually show kids how what they do in school applies to their lives. We can tell them, but not always show them directly. Granted, this gets more difficult as kids get older, but try it and see what happens.
Another tip on how to succeed in middle school? Help your kids get organized. Find out if their teachers require a certain method (like individual folders for each class) and go from there. Good organization skills are important at all ages, but are an absolute must in middle school, since kids change classes and have multiple teachers.
I can’t tell you how many times I have had students get zeroes for work they were unable to find but had completed. It just got lost in a jumble of papers they crammed into their backpack the night before.
If your child’s teachers do not require a certain organizational method, I would recommend a folder with pockets and clasps for each class.
- Clearly label each folder.
- Put blank paper in the clasps. (This paper will be for note taking and class work.) Reinforce to your child that there is no need to remove the paper unless they are turning it in.
- Label one pocket “Take Home" and one pocket “Turn In."
- Praise them when they stay organized.
Help your child! It may take days or even weeks before your child starts to understand how to stay organized. Go over their “At Home" papers with them and watch them place their “Turn In" papers in the correct place.
Consistent Sleeping Schedule
Make sure your kids are getting enough sleep. Sleepy kids are not going to be able to do their best at school. Even if they argue with you, make sure they get to bed early. This might be even more difficult in the middle school years, since many teenagers are wired to stay up late and sleep in, but work hard to get them in bed at a decent hour.
Make your kids eat breakfast. I know this sounds simple, and as a mom I also know that sometimes it’s not simple at all. Sometimes kids just don’t want to eat breakfast. But my motto as a parent and teacher is, “Choose your battles wisely," and this is one battle I choose to fight and win. People need nourishment in the morning. If your child had dinner at 6PM and does not eat breakfast that means that if they eat lunch at 11AM they will have gone 17 hours with no food. (And many students may not get the opportunity to eat until noon or later.) Your child will do better in school if they eat breakfast.
Provide a good place for your kids to do their homework. For some kids this may mean they need to be alone in their quiet bedroom. Other children may be happier at the kitchen table with mom or dad nearby for guidance. Some kids need total silence while others do just fine listening to their iPods. You know your child, so provide what your child needs.
Positive, Clear Communication with Teachers
Keep the line of communication open and clear with your child’s teacher. Try to remain positive. As a teacher, the one piece of advice I can offer is to reread your emails before you send them. (This goes for teachers, too!) Sometimes simple questions and observations can sound (unintentionally) negative over email. After writing an email, especially if you are upset, reread it before you hit send. You may even want to save it, reread it the next day, and then send it. Don’t forget about simply calling. Sometimes it's easier just to place a quick phone call. It may take more time initially, but can actually save time in the future, depending on the issue.
Try any or all of these tips designed to tell your child (and you) how to succeed in middle school. Remember that middle school can be a challenging time in a young person's life. Be patient and supportive - they'll be in high school before you know it!