By David Larson
There are many factors that contribute to the academic success of our students. Healthy lifestyles, social-emotional wellness, high quality instruction, proficient use of technology, and the ability to persevere through challenges are some of the top influences on student achievement and growth.
That being said, there is one external influence that can propel our children towards success or hold them back from their potential achievement … and that is the influence of positive adults. Children who have grown ups or older teenagers who are active in their academic life are far more successful than those who do not. And, not surprisingly, the more positive influences the better.
Kids need role models, guidance, support and compassion. Based on the information above, this article has two objectives. First, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, church members, and all people who care about the well-being and academic success of our kiddos … get involved. The second purpose of the article is to provide ways that parents (or whoever is serving in this capacity) can actively get involved in their students’ academic lives.
Schools can’t do it alone. The 180 days of seven hours of instruction are not sufficient to set a student on a course of success. Our students need champions in their lives. This can be you. Please consider ways that you can become involved in the educational life of a child. We are all living very busy lives and too often we do not make time for the children in our communities. Find the time to get involved. Look for opportunities to mentor and help our young children. Consider children in your life that you can influence and begin a process of getting involved.
Often parents and caregivers want to be more involved in the educational process of their children, but they do not know how. The list below are some ideas to consider. It is not an exhaustive list, but rather a starting point for those of you who are looking for opportunities to be more involved.
1. Read — If you have young children, read to them. As they get older have them read to you. As they grow into independent readers, set time to read as a family. Reading to young children helps develop the necessary language awareness and early literacy skills that are the foundation of academic success.
2. Talk — A very influential study from Stanford University indicated that by the age of 4 years old the gap in word understanding and recognition between children who had active parents who talked to them regularly and those who did not was 32 million words. This phenomenon is often referred to as the 30 million word gap. Talk to your kids. Talk about stuff. Talk about your grocery list. Talk about your day and their day. And, most importantly talk about school!
3. Ask — Ask your child about school. Don’t let them avoid answering. Understand their experiences by having regular conversations about school. Scholastic provided these 10 questions you can ask your child in order to avoid the typical one or two word responses. Remember, our goal here is to understand their experience. Tell me about the best part of your day. What was the hardest thing you had to do today? Did any of your classmates do anything funny? Tell me about what you read in class. Who did you play with today? What did you play? Do you think math [or any subject] is too easy or too hard? What’s the biggest difference between this year and last year? What rules are different at school than our rules at home? Do you think they’re fair? Who did you sit with at lunch? Can you show me something you learned (or did) today?
4. Communicate — In addition to talking with your child, talk to your child’s teacher(s). They want to hear from you. They love to hear from you. Call, email, schedule an appointment and come in. Attend parent-teacher conferences. Establish a working relationship with your partner(s) in the educational experience of your child.
Alright … this is critical! If you are a parent or caregiver and you are reading this and you have not communicated with your child’s teacher(s) yet this school year, please make this priority No. 1. This is for any age student.
5. Prioritize — Make a school a priority by setting aside time every day to do school work. If you have trouble helping your child with assignments, contact his/her teacher. They will provide you will assistance. You can also find some great tutorials online, such as Kahn Academy ( https://www.khanacademy.org/ ) that will help serve as a refresher.
6. Praise — Celebrate the effort, hard work, and achievement of your child’s academic success. My advice is not to reward only achievement like good grades on a report card. Reward the perseverance and determination whenever possible. Make working hard at school an important thing in your household. If you are interested in finding out more about praising effort over outcome, check out this article from U.S. News ( http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/11/23/teachers-parents-often-misus e-growth-mindset-research-carol-dweck-says ).
My favorite quote about teaching is from Todd Whitaker, it goes, “The best part of teaching is that it matters. The hardest part of teaching is that every moment matters, every day.” The same can certainly be said for the role of parents and other adults in the educational lives of children. You matter. And if you are not actively involved in the life of a child, you are holding them back from the success they deserve. The achievement of our children is too critical to miss this opportunity. Get involved. Help a child succeed.