….becoming the teacher's best friend!

Missing Link? Students Get Home and Forget How to Help Themselves.

Ever check in on your child while they are doing homework and find them staring at a worksheet with no idea where to start? It begs the question, “Were you listening during class today?” The automated response to such a question will be, “yes”. But a better question is why your student comes home with extra practice that they are unable to do independently. Perhaps they showed temporary understanding of the concept in class, giving the teacher the message that they could do it again 5 hours later. The teacher may be required to use a curriculum that does not slow down for a student who needs extra practice of a foundational concept before moving on. This is why it is so important to communicate a “missing link” between the lesson in class and your child’s ability to recall information at home. Should the teacher have the ability to “individualize” student work, this message will allow you to have resources at home that build up to the assigned work.

Laurena, a fifth-grader in Denver, Colorado experiences temporary gaps in understanding caused by a change in math curriculums two years in a row. In class, she appears to understand the concepts and seems ready to practice later that night with a homework assignment. At home, mom tells a different story. It is very apparent that Laurena needs more practice before she can work independently, especially on a complex word problem. Laurena’s mom has turned to a tutor to help shorten the gap as well as help Laurena gain confidence in her ability as the math continues to become more challenging.

In this case, the tutor helped to identify specific skills that Laurena needed to practice. She coaches her in study techniques and boosts overall confidence. However, the message needs to get back to the teacher that the student is not working alone. A teacher can easily mis-identify completed, accurate homework done with a parent or a tutor as evidence that the student is ready for more challenging work. Helping too much can also cause a student to ace homework assignments, but fail tests or quizzes. When helping your student with homework, look for a few indicators that your assistance is becoming a crutch.

1) Your child won’t get their homework out and get started until you are sitting right there with them.
2) You and your child revel in how “evil” the homework assignments are together.
3) You often argue with your child about what they are supposed to do on an assignment.
4) Your child is afraid to turn in an assignment unless it was done with you.

Parent help with homework is often expected and an American tradition. But when you must communicate a “missing link” between lessons in class and expectations on homework assignments, things get tricky. First, check that you are following the advice of “homework experts”.  If your child craves a clean, quiet work space….provide that. Start homework by helping your student review the assignments for that night or week. Ensure that they know what they are to do and let them go. Tell them that you are available if they are unsure, but make an attempt to get out of the area. If an assignment comes home that your student cannot complete without you basically doing it for them, it’s time to talk to teacher. At least you can start the conversation by saying you’ve tried everything!

That Parent: Scribbles a nasty note on the assignment, expressing their opinion that the assignment was wrong or inappropriate for the abilities of their student. They may also storm the classroom 5 minutes prior to class starting to show that their student could only do the first two problems. This will set the tone for many conversations to come if the student has real challenges and needs lots of support.

Favorite Parent: Takes a deep breath and assures their child that as long as they understood the lesson in class, they should be able to complete their homework. But sometimes homework assignments cover older topics or ask for more than what students practiced in class. This parent encourages their student to try their best to show the teacher what they can do alone. After some guidance, the Favorite Parent shoots a quick email to the teacher indicating that the assignment was too hard for their student to do independently. They share any insightful details of what went right and what went wrong. Then, the Favorite Parent asks the teacher if the assignment was designed for parents to assist with. This will communicate to the teacher that it was assumed that the student can do the work on their own. If the teacher feels that a student needs nightly homework assistance by a parent or tutor, it should be formally recommended. Next, the Favorite Parent will keep track of assignments that were “too hard” to look for patterns or to help guide them to the path of identifying what additional resources or support they may need outside of school.

According to a 2006 study, seven in ten parents (73 percent) say they have used the Internet to assist their middle school-aged child with after-school work. The study, comissioned by LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. in conjunction with the National Education Association reveals that nearly nine in ten (86 percent) middle school students say that they still turn to their parents for homework help.

If you choose to support your student by doing extra work at home to fill holes, turn to the internet. Though many “homework help” sites require membership, fees or are ridden with ads, there are a few that are used in the classroom and are appropriate at home. Visit these blogs to find an updated, content-rich list of technology for the classroom and your home.



Filed under: asking for help, parenting advice, resources for home, , , , , ,

Update Your Relationship Status on Facebook But Don’t Forget the Teacher.

With so many families going through dynamic changes every year, it is hard to keep tabs with who is at which stage of a separation, divorce or even a career change. But there’s one person that can usually tell that something has changed at your home, though they’ve never been there and you’ve never talked to them about your personal life. That would be your kid’s teacher. Kids have such amazing coping mechanisms, yet are so fragile when it comes to change. A subtle tiff at the breakfast table can ruin their entire day. Yet the announcement of parents divorcing can send them to school in denial and under the guise of business-as-usual.

inthemiddleTeachers don’t need to know the details or even why or who or how. But a good parent will give the teacher a heads up if they anticipate major changes at home. Without calling an all-parties-involved conference, subtly ask the teacher if you can speak privately about some recent changes at home. In the case of a divorce or separation, both parents should initiate the conversation. In the case of a serious illness or death in the family, remember to ask for support and empathy around the situation. Offer to follow-up and stay in communication with the teacher about if and how this has changed your child’s school day. In the end, you may find little judgement passed, but a ton of empathy and support for you and your kid.

That Parent: School year just started and she forgets to mention that the family ise all packed up and ready to move as soon as the house sells. Their child’s room is “barely there” with all books, clothing and toys in boxes. When the house sells, she forgoes the opportunity to tell the teacher and instead mentions it weeks later when updating contact information. She didn’t make the link between behavior issues and dropping grades during this transition.

Favorite Parent: Knows that moving is a major life change for young kids. The stress and time spent on such an ordeal goes noticed by kids and this heightened anxiety can play out at school. The Favorite Parent sends a quick note to the teacher indicating that they are in the process of selling the house, though it’s not a move that would cause their student to change schools. She tells the teacher that they are keeping essentials unpacked so that her child has the materials to feel safe and comfortable at home and the ability to do schoolwork without having to sift through boxes. Once the move is under way, she updates the teacher, letting her know that it will be a long, tiring weekend and that her chid is excited to get a new bedroom and new neighborhood friends. This way, the teacher can capitalize on the positives of this change and be empathetic to the natural stresses created when moving during the school year.

Filed under: asking for help, parenting advice, , , , , , ,

Whole grain, 2% American Cheese, Fat-free mayo and TWO DESSERTS!

lunchableWhen you peek in the classroom each morning and again at the end of the day to pick-up, you see kids in the classroom participating in some organized routine. Perhaps they are starting a writing assignment or participating in a “morning meeting” and get going once everyone is there. On Monday mornings, most kids fall into the categories of being fed, being rushed and wishing it was still Saturday. Once the teacher gets everyone into the groove, things pick up. Brains turn on. Groups form. Activities are under way. But around 11:30, tummies start to rumble. Kids look forward to seeing what mom packed for lunch. Teachers look forward to teaching well-fed students for the after-noon stretch. Will the the pre-packaged, on-sale, “everyone smiles” product off the grocery shelf  come back to bite?

You read: “Whole-grain mini-sub sandwhich.” This product label should make any mom feel good about her purchase. But you’d be surprised if you volunteered for lunch duty at your kid’s school. Browse the rows of tables and see what kids are eating. Read the packaging. Then, look to see what is left over after the Chips-Ahoy! Cookies, Sugar-free Jello and Tropical Punch Kool-Aid are consumed. It’s that whole-grain mini-sub made with lean ham! With all the chit-chatter and freedom to start with dessert(s), kids wrap up their 20-30 minute eating session without digesting the only item with some real nutrients. The protein, whole-grain, dairy and vitamins are deposited in the trash bin. Now back to the classroom…

Teachers, parents and scientists have long debated the affects of sugar, aspertame and red dye on young kids. Without getting into that “un-dye-ing” arguement, let’s think for a minute about whether we would want the reverse as parents. What if teacher called you at noon to pick up our kid? They have just consumed about 21 grams of sugar and now you need to spend the next 3 hours working with your kid on a long-division packet and create a skit about algae reproduction! Now imagine how productive that afternoon would have been for your kid at school. Remember this is territory that most teachers stay out of. They deal with the cards they’ve been dealt and don’t cross that line of “parenting advice”.

That Parent: Figures her kid is lucky she has time to pack backpacks, get kids to school, remember all of the doctor’s appointments, help with homework, do the grocery shopping, and make sure the food even gets to school. Packing a fancy gourmet lunch for a 7-year-old is not on the top half of her list of important things to do or think about.

Favorite Parent: Tests at home. Give your kid 30 minutes to eat a lunch similar to what you pack for school and see what happens. You might see that they don’t like half of it and would rather starve. You might see them go into a sugar-coma after drinking red Kool-Aid. You might see that they eat their food and behave normally, but are hungry 15 minutes later and crave something else. Next, ask your kid’s teacher if he complains of being hungry, thirsty, constipated or tired after lunch. Perhaps the leftover turkey or halloween candy was something she wanted to mention, but didn’t want to offend. By bringing it up, you are telling the teacher that you care about your kid’s diet and performance in class.

Filed under: asking for help, , , ,

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