After thirty-two years of teaching

September 19, 2012

By Pam Thompson

After thirty-two years of teaching, I’ve observed that those students who are successful usually possess the same characteristics.  First of all, they have a positive attitude about the school year.  It is said that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.  It is inevitable that children must return to school, so try to encourage your child to see the positive side of going back by reminding them that they’ll be seeing their old friends, making new friends, purchasing new school supplies, and learning many new skills and lots of interesting information.

     Once your child is in the 3rd grade he or she should always have a 3-ring binder with index sheets to separate subjects.  Include a 3-ring pencil pouch and pack in some pens, pencils, erasers, highlighters, and whatever else you need depending on grade level.  At the front of each subject index sheet, ask your child to set aside a page to write down assignments as they are given.  There should be a column to check off when the assignment is turned in and a column to write down their grade received when the teacher returns the graded paper.  This will help you keep track of your child’s progress at home and insure that they’re turning in the required work. 

Also, don’t hesitate to contact teachers for updates on your child’s progress before progress reporting time.  Most teachers are happy to speak with parents; just make sure you call at break or after school.  Better still, send a note with your phone number and ask the teacher to call you at his or her convenience.  It’s helpful to remember that the ideal team for your child’s education includes you, the teacher, and the child.  As teachers, we want to see our students succeed and when we’re in contact with the parents or guardians, we know the student will receive the maximum benefit from his or her educational opportunities.  If you suspect you’re not getting what you need from the teacher, you can always speak to someone in administration for assistance.

I can relate hundreds of instances in which the student informs the parents that he or she is doing well and receives a failing grade on a progress report.  This should be a signal to the parent that the child is in serious trouble in that class and should be monitored very closely.  Also, most schools have tutoring after school and you should make sure your child takes advantage of this opportunity.  Many schools have a form that can be sent around at the end of each week which the teacher(s) will fill out with grades and comments.  When this report comes home with your child on the weekend and they’ve done a good job, celebrate and praise them for doing well.  However, if they are continuing their bad work habits or getting in trouble in class, you need to curtail activities on the weekend and they need to make up the work they’ve missed, if the teacher will allow it.  After a few weekends of this, the child should get the message and correct the behavior.

Extra reading has become very important in our school systems over the past years.  Many schools have the Accelerated Reader program which allows the child to check out a book, read it, and take a test on the computer in the library.  Some teachers require AR points for their classes, but if they don’t have this program, make sure your child has a book to read in addition to school work.  He or she can check a book out from the school library or you can make a trip to the bookstore to purchase a book.  Just make sure you check to see if the book is age appropriate and that the reading level isn’t too far above your child’s current grade level.  For example, a Harry Potter book wouldn’t be appropriate for most 2nd or 3rd graders because it’s written at about the 5th or 6th grade reading level.  Remember, one of the best ways to increase vocabulary is through reading.  In fact, reading level is often based on difficulty of vocabulary.

Finally, the best way for your children to experience a great year is for you as parents to be optimistic and encouraging about school.  Let your youngsters know that you expect them to learn and that this will improve their future in every way.  Support them and make sure they have a pleasant, well-lit place to study and do their homework.  Sit down with them at times to see what they’re doing and make them understand that you’re there for them and will help them to get the best education they possibly can.  Have a great year and don’t forget to keep in touch with your teachers!

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