Do­ing the re­port card hus­tle

The Compass - - OPINION - — Nathan Whalen is pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador Fed­er­a­tion of School Coun­cils

It’s the first week of De­cem­ber and while our stu­dents prob­a­bly have vi­sions of su­gar plums danc­ing in their heads, par­ents will be filled with emo­tion as they open the tightly sealed brown en­velopes com­ing home in their kids’ back­packs. Joy for some, dis­ap­point­ment for oth­ers.

Yes, re­port cards are here. This week, par­ents across New­found­land and Labrador are be­ing herded to par­ent-teacher in­ter­views and ei­ther re­ward­ing or sup­port­ing their child in their aca­demic achieve­ment af­ter the fall re­port­ing pe­riod.

Ed­u­ca­tion is a com­plex topic and the needs of in­di­vid­ual stu­dents is even more tan­ta­liz­ing. How­ever, as the de­mands on our schools con­tinue to in­crease it is im­per­a­tive that par­ents and the com­mu­nity part­ner with our teach­ers to help our chil­dren achieve.

So, you ask, what can I do to sup­port my child? Well if your child is a stu­dent that ex­cels in all sub­ject ar­eas, con­grat­u­la­tions. Nev­er­the­less, this stu­dent still needs strong en­cour­age­ment to chal­lenge him or her­self to en­rich their learn­ing. There­fore this may be the time to speak with your child’s teacher to iden­tify ad­vanced ma­te­rial that may be ap­pro­pri­ate to their abil­i­ties; you may even con­sider fo­cus­ing on soft skills such as time man­age­ment or ser­vice learn­ing.

If your child is strug­gling or if you be­lieve they are not try­ing their best, they may need ad­di­tional prac­tice in cer­tain sub­ject ar­eas. Re­search sug­gests that strate­gies such as show­ing an in­ter­est in home­work, pro­vid­ing a suit­able workspace with min­i­mal dis­trac­tions, and en­cour­ag­ing rou­tine home­work times all lead to im­proved aca­demic per­for­mance. Re­ward­ing pos­i­tive be­hav­iour in ar­eas of im­proved grades and other aca­demic suc­cesses has also been proven to sup­port stu­dent achieve­ment.

Many par­ents ap­proach par­ent-teacher in­ter­views al­most as a doc­tor’s of­fice checkup, where the doc­tor will sim­ply tell you what is wrong and will med­i­cate the prob­lem by hand­ing you a pre­scrip­tion — how­ever par­ent-teacher in­ter­views are a twoway street.

To get the most out of them be sure to pre­pare some ques­tions in ad­vance. Con­sider ask­ing things such as: “How are my child’s work habits?” “Does my child read at the level you would ex­pect from this grade?” or, “What can I do at home to help my child be more suc­cess­ful at school?”

Re­mem­ber that your child is the fo­cus of this process, so be­fore the meet­ing, ask them to tell you what they think are their best and worst sub­jects and if they have any ques­tions they would like for you to ask. When you re­turn home, dis­cuss the re­sults of the con­fer­ence with your child and stress the pos­i­tive com­ments made by the teacher. Talk about any sug­ges­tions, made by the teacher, for im­prove­ment and then come up with a plan to carry th­ese out.

An in­ter­ested, in­formed par­ent is an as­set to both your child and teacher. A strong ed­u­ca­tional part­ner­ship be­tween home and school cre­ates a pos­i­tive school ex­pe­ri­ence for stu­dents of all ages, in­clud­ing teenagers.

Quite of­ten th­ese stu­dents try to dis­cour­age their par­ents from be­com­ing in­volved in their school by say­ing “no­body else’s par­ents will be there” or that it’s “un­cool.” De­spite this, re­search has shown that aca­demic achieve­ment of stu­dents is strongly cor­re­lated with parental in­volve­ment in school life and that ju­nior and se­nior high school stu­dents ac­tu­ally ap­pre­ci­ate that their par­ents care enough to be in­volved (even though they’ll never ad­mit it).

Ac­cord­ing to the 2008 Duke re­view, the role of the par­ent in coach­ing their chil­dren to­wards their fu­ture and academics is five times more pow­er­ful dur­ing the high school years. Par­ents who are in­volved in vol­un­teer- ing pro­duce chil­dren who be­come vol­un­teers later in life — be­cause they see the value and re­ward in giv­ing their time to the school and their chil­dren.

From con­nect­ing with your child’s teacher sev­eral times per year on an is­sue that arises to serv­ing on your lo­cal School Coun­cil, part­ner­ships be­tween the home and school are vi­tal to sup­port­ing each child’s suc­cess.

When fam­i­lies, teach­ers and schools find ways to work to­gether, stu­dent achieve­ment im­proves, teacher morale rises, and fam­ily, school, and com­mu­nity con­nec­tions mul­ti­ply.

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