Many a mother has sighed at the sight of an overflowing, messy backpack. Pens, papers, red ink everywhere on our kitchen counters. We’re accustomed to seeing piles of graded papers make their way home often. While we don’t like the mess, at least this time-tested process afforded us the opportunity to review our kids’ work, discuss areas for improvement, and generally keep an eye on their academic progress.
Keeping track of homework was also fairly easy to monitor: a paper planner, worksheets for homework, or even a scratch of paper where your son feverishly wrote down his assignments from the chalkboard as he raced from the classroom.
Times have changed incredibly quickly. Now, you might see far fewer papers in your daughter’s backpack. She takes her tests and quizzes online these days. Apparently there are portals we can jump through to see her work, and there are electronic classrooms where her assignments are not only posted, but submitted. The grades are detailed online and you can see them, but you have to know where and when to look.
It can be challenging to keep with up each teacher’s chosen online tools. Who has time to log in to four different places just to find out this week’s homework?
Each school district in Hampton Roads uses a different online grade book tool.
Once you have accessed your student’s record through one of these tools, what’s next in keeping up with all the different programs and tools used in the classroom? Here are some great tips for staying in touch with your student’s academic progress in the digital age:
You can then use it (or even better -- direct your son to use it!) when you’re in a hurry on a Tuesday night.
Tutor A Team wants to partner with you to make the most of your child’s academic journey. We will work with you to ensure you know the ins and outs of your school system’s online tools, and how to use them to monitor progress. Our tutors promote a “team” concept, where the parents, teachers, tutor, and student communicate regularly on goals and progress. A tutor can help you build a system for effectively supporting your child.
What are your thoughts on how to maximize these powerful online tools to support our students? What tips do you have to share?
Maybe you saw this coming, or maybe it was a bolt of lightning out of the clear blue sky. Either way, there's no feeling like the sinking feeling you get when your child brings home a bad report card.
You might feel angry with your child, frustrated with your child's teacher, or ashamed that you didn't know or couldn't help your child. Those feelings are all understandable, but there are some very specific ways you should NOT react when you first lay eyes on that sub-par report.
Here are five things NOT to do when your child shows you (or you discover) the poor grades:
1. Don't yell. The situation is already intense. You feel frustrated and upset, and your child probably does, too. Yelling only ups the intensity for all involved, and it usually causes your child to shut down. Even if your child lied to you or blew off major assignments, yelling on your part does nothing except communicates to your child that you're angry and out of control. If you can't have a calm conversation right away, let your child know that you'll discuss the report when you're feeling calmer and have had time to think about how to react constructively.
2. Don't lecture. When you're ready to have that conversation, make sure it's a two-way dialogue. If you go into "Charlie Brown's teacher" mode (you know, WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH), you're not going to learn anything about why this problem exists and what you and your child can do to fix it. Most kids, when asked in a non-threatening, respectful manner, will be able to tell you exactly what's going wrong and what they think might help improve the situation. But if you start the conversation with an angry rant about how your child is "disappointing you" and "ruining her future," your child will kick into a defensive, defiant mode of her own.
3. Don't blame the teacher. Even if you're child's teacher isn't setting the world on fire, help your child see where he has some control over the situation and what he can do to improve his performance. If he says, "I don't like how he teaches" or "He doesn't like me," re-focus the conversation on your child's role and responsibilities as a learner. Allowing your child to blame the teacher sets your child up to believe that his success or failure in life is in someone else's hands, and he doesn't have control over his life or responsibility for his choices.
4. Don't focus only on the negatives. Chances are, your child's report card contains good information, too. Maybe she earned an A in art, or maybe a teacher noted how well she works with other students. Find something positive to talk about so your child doesn't feel like all you see is what she can't or didn't do. If you really can't find something positive about the report, contact her teachers and ask. Just say, "I'd like to talk to my child about how she can improve her performance in school, and I'd like that conversation to include a discussion of her strengths and weaknesses. Can you share some positive observations, as well as your specific suggestions for improvement?"
5. Don't just talk about grades. Those grades matter. Of course they do. But they are only indicators of small areas in your child's life -- one subject here, one subject there, and most important, one moment in time. They are not permanent indicators of your child's character or destiny, or for that matter, your parenting. So when you talk to your child, instead of focusing on grades as the final outcome, focus on work habits, school routines, and daily actions and choices that can get your child back on track. Talk to your child about self esteem and taking pride in one's work and contributions. Research shows that focusing on grades, and not the growth and process by which those grades are earned, sets your child up to be completely unmotivated in school.
Finally, if you feel stuck, please call us. We absolutely have strategies that can help your child get back on track, and we'd love to talk to you about the resources available for your child.
What are your best tips for handling poor grades?
When a child struggles with reading or math in secondary school, everyone thinks it's a big deal. Parents get concerned about the child's GPA, college opportunities, and eligibility for sports and student activities.
In elementary school, however, some parents have a more relaxed attitude. They think the stakes are lower and a poor grade here or an off quarter there is no big deal.
Those parents are wrong. It is a very big deal when children struggle in reading and math, even as early as kindergarten. Especially as early as kindergarten.
Study after study identifies giant gaps in student abilities as early as kindergarten. There are some kids who start school strong -- with good pre-literacy skills and solid number sense. These kids excel or meet grade-level expectations from their first days in the classroom. Then there are the children who struggle. Maybe they didn't have the benefit of a pre-school program, or maybe they are just late bloomers who aren't into reading just yet. Maybe math is just harder for them, and in their crowded classrooms, they aren't getting the individual attention they need to thrive.
Whatever the reason, these beginning gaps don't just go away. In fact, research indicates that students who fall behind in elementary school never catch up. Without a solid foundation in reading skills and a conceptual understanding of math, these kids struggle to keep up for the rest of their student lives. The achievement gaps that open in kindergarten and first grade only widen and grow as the years go by. Children who struggle to grasp fractions don't go on to ace algebra without some kind of intervention or help. Kids who are slow, tedious readers in elementary school start to drown when they get to Charles Dickens in middle school.
This is why it's essential for parents to ensure that their children establish a solid foundation in early reading, writing, and math skills. It's not enough for your child to "just get by," passing SOLs with basic proficiency and heaving a sigh of relief when another year's done.
We're big believers in establishing that solid foundation. Our elementary tutors are K-6 specialists, and we know how important it is for your child to not just pass, but to thrive and excel, to move confidently from one grade to the next, equipped with the verbal and number skills that he or she will need for years to come.
As a parent or grandparent, there's a lot you can do to make sure your child or grandchild gets the help he needs NOW, rather than waiting and hoping the gaps will close.
Some parents and grandparents find that they alone are unable to help their child. Sometimes the math processes have changed, and sometimes the reading gaps are difficult to address -- after all, most parents are not reading specialists. You might know your child struggles to read but don't know how to help her.
If your child needs help NOW, please call us to talk about it, or get in touch here. Our in-home, one-on-one tutoring is an effective way to close the gaps. We have many strategies to share, and we've seen from years of experience how essential it is that the kids get help sooner rather than later.
We want to tell you about this cool thing we do called the Final Five and how you can use it to help your child stay on track in school. The Final Five is how we spend the last five minutes of tutoring sessions with our K-6 families, and it's designed to maximize the effectiveness of tutoring sessions and enable parents to help their children -- even when we aren't there.
For the last five minutes of each session, the tutor has the parent join the student. The tutor first explains to the parent what the child and tutor covered in that day's session.
Next, the tutor explains to the parent what he or she can do until the next session to support the child's progress in that subject. This might include:
- Discussing any upcoming tests or projects the student can be working on.
- Explaining what the child needs in terms of home support, whether that be materials, study space, someone to review homework or listen to reading.
- Giving the parent and child a small task or project that will enable to child to practice and support the child's progress in that subject until the tutor returns.
We started doing this because many parents told us they want to help and be involved in their child's academic success, but they don't know what specifically to do. The Final Five gives parents direction for that goal.
Here's the neat thing about the Final Five -- you can do it with your child even if you don't have a tutor!
Recent studies have shown that parents who hover too much or get too involved in their child's homework completion are actually counterproductive and ineffective. They actually prevent their child from learning and developing problem-solving independence. So instead of doing that (and if you've ever done it, you know your child doesn't enjoy it anyway), try using the Final Five to support your kid's growth in school.
Ask your child to talk to you about his or her schoolwork for the last five minutes of each homework session. For your own Final Five, you can:
- Review your child's planner and talk about upcoming projects or assessments.
- Ask if your child had any trouble with the assignments and suggest troubleshooting strategies. Would watching a YouTube tutorial help? Can you answer a couple questions? Can the child speak to his or her teacher to get some extra direction?
- Talk about your child's academic goals for the week. What's a priority? What's going on at school? What's interesting?
Your own Final Five allows you to do daily "pulse checks" with your child without micromanaging his or her schoolwork. You'll know when problems are cropping up and develop an ongoing conversation with your child about school.
Our Final Five helps you get the most out of every tutoring session. We really want to see your child succeed! Let us know how we can help.