The Parents’ Role on the Academic Team
If you are a regular reader, you know by now that I’m a third-grade teacher. When I first meet the parents at Back-to-School Night, I try to stress to them that we are a team. The team includes the teacher, the student and the parents. In order to promote the best academic success, all three must do their part to contribute to the child’s educational experience and achievement. Most teachers I know are very dedicated to their jobs. As you are surely aware, we didn’t choose this profession because of the money or because it’s easy. We are genuinely devoted to your children. Students need to work diligently on their assignments and pay attention in class. The teacher has carefully chosen lessons and assignments that will benefit the students. As parents, you may be wondering what is involved in your role.
Attendance is Key
One of the most important and basic contributions made by parents is to get children to school on time every day. My students with chronic absences, and those who regularly arrive late, are frequently the same students who struggle. A teacher is unable to teach a child who is not in class. When my sons were young, the guideline we followed was that they would attend school unless they were throwing up, had diarrhea or were running a fever. This policy worked well for us. I spend part of the mornings working with my struggling students in small groups. Children who arrive late are missing this instructional time specifically designed to help them become successful.
Make Sure Homework is Completed
Another parental responsibility relates to homework. In order to ensure student success, parents need to be sure that homework is being completed. At this age, parents should take the time to review it with their children. One of the main reasons I assign homework is to give the parents the opportunity to see what we are working on in class and to be able to help students when needed. This doesn’t mean that parents should be doing the homework for them. I suggest having the child complete homework independently, and then review it. Parents have the opportunity to spot difficulties, perhaps even before the teacher recognizes them. This gives parents a chance to help the child before it develops into a larger problem.
I am always disappointed when I have students who regularly get low scores on homework or don’t even turn it in. This means parents are not taking advantage of the opportunity I am trying to offer them. Having raised two sons of my own, I do understand the homework struggles. Teachers are not trying to torture families with homework. We are trying to provide parents with the opportunity to contribute to the education of their children.
Practice Math Facts
One of the other things you can do to help your child succeed is to practice math facts. In the lower grades, this may just involve addition and subtraction. In third grade, you will need to be focusing on multiplication facts. Before becoming a teacher, I didn’t realize how much this responsibility fell upon the parents. Teachers certainly practice facts in class. However, students really need individual help in this area. A teacher may be working on multiplying by fours in class. Some students may not have mastered their twos yet. Others may be working on sevens, and others may have already mastered their facts. This is why it’s so important to work with your children at home. You are able to give your child the individualized focus he needs at the moment.
Support the Teacher when Behavior Issues Arise
An additional responsibility of the parent is to support the teacher should behavior issues arise. Teachers are unable to do their jobs well in a classroom with frequent behavior troubles. It is important that teachers possess good classroom management skills. This is part of their contribution. However, some children continue to disrupt class with outbursts and other behavior issues, even in a classroom with excellent classroom management. If a parent is contacted about these types of issues, the teacher is asking you to contribute to the team.
Parents are frequently more successful at providing incentives and consequences for children. Teachers are limited in these areas. If the student is misbehaving at school, I can’t take away his screen time that evening, for example. Parents need to help set expectations for behavior. I had a student in the past whose parent wouldn’t help set appropriate expectations. This parent wouldn’t provide any consequences at home. The child continues to disrupt classrooms and face suspensions to this day. The parent has only hurt the child by not working in unison with the child’s teachers.
Make Sure Kids are Well-Rested and Not Hungry
Parents are also responsible for sending children to school well-rested and not hungry. Parents need to be sure that bedtimes are providing the optimal amount of sleep. Free breakfasts are provided at many schools. If parents aren’t feeding children in the mornings, they can be sure to get them to school in time for breakfast. Tired and hungry students don’t learn well.
Encourage a Love of Reading
Parents can also contribute to their child’s education by encouraging a love of reading. Read to your child regularly. Bedtime stories were a favorite part of our evenings when my children were growing up. It is some of the best quality time you can spend with your child.
When teachers, students and parents all work together, the real winners are the children!