A 'C'? A 'C'? I got a 'C' on my coathanger sculpture? How could anyone get a 'C' in coathanger sculpture? May I ask a question? Was I judged on the piece of sculpture itself? If so, is it not true that time alone can judge a work of art? Or was I judged on my talent? If so, is it fair that I be judged on a part of my life over which I have no control? If I was judged on my effort, then I was judged unfairly, for I tried as hard as I could! Was I judged on what I had learned about this project? If so, then were not you, my teacher, also being judged on your ability to transmit your knowledge to me? Are you willing to share my 'C'? Perhaps I was being judged on the quality of coathanger itself out of which my creation was made...now is this not also unfair? Am I to be judged by the quality of coathangers that are used by the drycleaning establishment that returns our garments? Is that not the responsibility of my parents? Should they not share my 'C'? (SFX: the teachers voice is heard offstage [brief unintelligible squawk voice mixed with electronic static)) Thank you, Miss Othmar. (to audience) The squeaky wheel gets the grease! (exits)
We are fortunate to have a Sally here. My daughter is a joy. A good student, willing and capable, almost straight A's, and well liked and respected by fellow students and teachers alike.
We had parent-teacher interviews yesterday, and if I didn't know better, I would have sworn that money had changed hands. It certainly seemed like our daughter may have bribed teaching staff to say lovely things about her. Teachers with whom we'd been unable to secure a suitable time slot, literally waved to us as we walked by with her, inviting us to their desk to share the delights of teaching our girl.
Words like 'a joy', 'high expectations', 'A+ student in conduct and work ethic', 'a pleasure to have in the class', and 'someone who sets the benchmark so that other students know what is expected', were bandied around with enthusiasm. The Diva was grinning from ear to ear, and when her Drama teacher said Sotte Voce 'you must be very proud', it was hard for us not to grin as well.
So what makes a successful student?
Believe me, it wasn't always this for my family. I have three older sons, and my husband has a son from his previous marriage, and whilst they are all intelligent young men, academic life at school for them was not the high point I/we would have liked. That said, they were involved in sport, drama, debating, and other extra curricular activities and that kept them in the loop, well liked. and part of school life. So it wasn't all bad, and as adults, they've all excelled beyond what their teachers may have expected back then.
Here's what I think are some of the ingredients to raising a child who loves school, whether it be for academic, cultural, artistic or athletic pursuits. These are just my thoughts. I am not a teaching professional, but I am a Mum and have been a Mum for 35 years. I've seen all four of my children go on to succeed in some fashion, and have learned some of the Do's and Don'ts, that's for sure.
So here we go...
1. Interested and involved parents. It's hard to strike the right balance with teenagers. You don't want to be nosy, but you do need to know what's going on and what's expected. Newsflash....that's what parent-teacher interviews are for. What better way to get to know your childs teacher/s, and ask the questions that you need answered to best support your child at home. Make sure you go, take notes if necessary, and plan what you need to ask ahead of time. Your students last report card is a good place to start.
2. The right equipment. It's hard for kids to keep up, let alone excel, if they don't have what they need. If you're struggling financially, make a time to speak to the relevant teacher. Most schools offer payment plans or deferred payments for resources these days, and there may be more options available to you than you think.
3. They need to be able to prioritise. Time management skills are important and a diary with stickers to label tasks in an orderly manner is a great addition to the usual school requirements. If they choose to do this electronically, that's fine too, but you need to be overseeing this, at least in the junior and middle schooling years. Some might argue, more so in the senior years! Help them to understand that things that are due now or tomorrow take precedence over those due in a week or a month, but that doing a little each day on those tasks due later, streamlines the process of completing them on time.
4. Regardless of whether you choose public or private schooling, make sure your child has a chance to shine. Not every student is academically inclined, and given the opportunity, nearly every student can shine in some way. Even my disabled son, who has Cerebral Palsy, had his moments in the spotlight at his very inclusive high school. Whether it's Science, Maths, Volunteering, Cross Country, Track and Field, Football, Basketball, Netball, Hockey, Lacrosse, Water Polo, Volleyball, Softball, Netball, Cricket, Baseball, Dance, Drama, Debating, Cheerleading, Creative Writing, Visual Art, Music, Swimming, Voice, or something else, it's there. You just have to encourage your student to get involved and find which thing is their 'thing'.
5. This also means choosing the right school. And by that I don't mean the most prestigious school. I mean the school that is right for your student. The one most likely to offer the maximum number of opportunities for a successful, happy, memorable-for-the-right-reasons school life. This may take some investigation, but by the time your student is ready for high school life, you should have a bit of a handle on what their strengths and weaknesses are, and even perhaps where their career ambitions lie. Some schools offer greater opportunities for scientifically inclined students, some offer more for students interested in the performing arts or maths or debating, and so on. Find the right fit for your student. Not the most prestigious one for you.
5. Involve your child in playing a sport or a musical instrument, or learning dance or fencing or some other past time where they learn that practise and persistence, may mean slow progress, but ultimately carry reward. I see it time and time again, where kids who have been involved in an extra curricular activity, seem to understand that not every lesson comes easily, and that perseverance is the key. In todays world of instant gratification, it's vital for kids to 'get' that not everything happens instantaneously.
6. Students who ask questions are not 'dumb'. They're the smart ones. How will you ever understand the solution to a problem if you don't ask the question? Encourage your kids to be confident enough to raise their hand and ask the questions that possibly every other student wants to ask, but is too timid to.
7. Try to show your kids how classroom lessons help in real life. Knowing where Madrid is in relation to Paris, may help in planning a holiday, mathematical problems help us in everything from cooking (fractions, time, weights and measures) to building a house. When they say 'this is dumb. I don't even need to know this', you need to be able to reassure them that they do need it and where they'll need it. Understanding the purpose of the lesson is sometimes all that's needed to turn boring into awesome.
8. Determine what type of learners your kids are. It can make all the difference to how they absorb and process information. I know that I am a kinesthetic learner, and can't bear to sit around talking about a thing for too long. I just want to DO it. My daughter is the same. One of my sons wanted to learn things by rote (verbal/linguistic) and one was more logical/mathematical. The third son, my eldest is also a kinesthetic learner. There are lots of blogs and websites that discuss the different learning styles. Try this one to start you off...
9. Encourage good work and study habits and make sure that school is valued in your household. We have a rule here, that as much as our daughter adores her performing arts, homework and school MUST for now, come first. If her grades slip, something has to go, and it won't be school or homework. Value education, and your kids will too.
10. Finally, a wise person said to me once, that you can approach life two ways. You can do the hard slog at school and college/university, to smooth your path to an easy life later, or you can slack off in school and college/university, and spend the rest of your life doing the hard slog just to put food on the table. It's a good way to look at it. Fifteen to twenty years of investing in your own education, sets you up for the rest of your life. I don't think there's any harm in spelling that out loud and clear.
'You can work hard now, and have an easy life later, or you can have an easy life now and have to work hard forever. It's up to you.'
I'd love to hear your tips on raising kids who are successful at study.