As many students prepare to finish the school year, it is an important time for parents to reflect on their role in their children’s academic success. This week’s Parenthetical article shares a bit of teacher insight into what parents can do to promote student success!
School success is a hot topic. How involved should parents be in their preteen’s or teen’s learning? Shouldn’t middle school kids and junior high kids be able to manage their own work? Why do teachers give so much or so little homework?
To get an insider’s perspective on the ways parents can support their tween’s learning, we interviewed two middle school teachers, Jessica Bergeron and Danielle Kenitz about their experience teaching tweens and how parents can support their kid’s learning.
Danielle has been teaching for 6 years and currently teaches middle school Social Studies for an online charter school. She has coached 8th grade volleyball and also serves as a homeroom or advisory teacher for students.
Jessica teaches 7th grade Latin and has been teaching for 9 years. She has previously taught English, Creative Writing and Composition. She also is a member of her school’s Leadership Advisory Team and serves as secretary for her district’s Continuing Education Unit committee.
A lot of people avoid middle school kids, why did you decide to become a middle school teacher?
Jessica: I decided to become a middle school teacher because children at this age have passion (for school and for other activities outside of school). That’s not to say that older students don’t have passion, but middle school kids aren’t bogged down by all of the extra stresses yet (like working at a job outside of school, applying for colleges, etc.) Middle school students are brutally honest. They aren’t afraid to ask the “Why’s” of what they are learning. Great discussions come from middle school students.
Danielle: I think that Middle School kids are fun because they haven’t completely lost their love of learning yet. Most are still open to school and learning from their teachers. Also, you can have great conversation with Middle School students – you never know what they are going to say next.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give parents who asked you how they could best support their kids’ learning?
Jessica: The one piece of advice I would give to parents is to encourage your child to keep persevering. It’s easy at this age to give up on something when it’s hard. Help your child break down difficult concepts. Ask the questions that lead them to discover the answer on their own. And, of course, give lots of praise when they discover that they can do it!
Danielle: Be involved! Know what your child is doing in school and be supportive of them. Instill in your child the importance of education. Even if you did not have the best school experience, encourage your child to value their education and try their best. Make school and education a priority. If you notice your child is struggling, be sure that they get help, either from their teacher, a tutor, or an afterschool program.
How would you like parents to be involved in homework or preparing for tests?
Danielle: I would like parents to be available to help their students review – quizzing them on vocabulary or helping them review the main ideas in preparation for a test. As for homework, I think that parents should make sure their child is completing all of their assigned homework, be available to answer questions if needed, but also make sure that their student completes their work independently.
Jessica: Middle school is the perfect time to teach kids how to self-manage their time and school work. The best way to be involved is to sit down with your child and come up with a study plan each week (look at big assignments and break them down, allot a certain amount of time for each subject each day, etc.). However, parents should not be so involved that they sit right next to their child as they are doing their work. Parents should not need to constantly check the gradebook and remind their child of missing homework assignments. Guiding and teaching your child how to manage their time to get all of their homework done and to review for tests throughout the week is skill that is essential to succeeding in high school and beyond. Often times, by middle school, parents aren’t familiar with all of the things their child is learning in school. Therefore, helping your child with their homework or studying for tests is a somewhat daunting task. If your child needs help, guide him or her to resources (textbook, notes, class websites, etc.)
Regardless of how well your child is or isn’t doing it middle school, it is essential that parents remember to concentrate on the long view. Middle School is a short period in a long life of learning. Parents can help children begin to build habits that may only develop fully in the many years to come.