6 February 2009 02:16 PM

Report Card Time

by rbavaria

It’s second semester time for the 2008-2009 school year, and report cards have just gone out or are coming soon.  In my forty years as a teacher, I’ve rarely known of a student who’s actually surprised at his or her report card grade.  They may act surprised for the benefit of their parents, but, truth be told, they’re not surprised at all.  After all, they know better than anyone else how much they’ve studied, what assignments they’ve done and turned in, what they’ve learned, what effort they’ve expended, how much perseverance they’ve practiced, how much extra help they got when they needed it.


Parents shouldn’t be surprised.  Surprise merely indicates that they’re not as informed about their student’s progress as they think they are.


Communication is the key.  From the first days of school, make sure your child knows that there will be a conversation about school every evening.  Conversations do not include one-word answers and half-hearted attempts at discussion.  They demand open-ended questions.  Ask questions that can be answered with one word, and that’s what you’ll get.


“Tell me about your English class.  How’s that essay coming along?  What are you reading in class?  Oh, I remember that book.  I enjoyed it, especially the part where Atticus guarded the jail house alone at night.  Very exciting, don’t you think?”


“What about math class?  Are you getting help for algebra, like we discussed?  Who’s helping you?  How is the extra tutoring helpful?”


"Who’d you have lunch with today?  She’s a good friend, isn’t she?”


“How’s soccer practice coming along?  How are you doing with practice?  What’s the most fun?”


“How’d rehearsal go today for the school play?  Anyone still learning their lines?”


Eventually the discussion will become a regular, valuable experience.  Your child will know you’re interested in all aspects of her schooling, aware of her progress, aware of timelines for report cards, book reports, term papers, games, concerts, and all the other important events in her school life.  The word “bonding” comes to mind.  I promise you, these informal, daily talks will end up being one of the things she’ll thank you for someday.  Maybe not soon, but someday.


Report cards don’t need to be a source of anxiety or frustration for you or for your student.  Here are a few tips I’ve given to parents and students over the years, tips that emphasize the two most important behaviors for improving school grades – communication and organization.  They form the acronym STUDY.


S – Stay on top of your child’s study schedule.  Be aware of assignments and whether your student is using time effectively to tackle homework and study.  Show how you organize yourself, your work, your time.  Be a role model for success.  Encourage him to put forth his best effort, to persevere.  (See my blog of  December 29, 2008, for more about effort and persistence.)


T – Team with your child, his teacher, his counselor, his coach, his band director, and any other adult who plays an important role in his life.  Work together with him to set goals and to develop a meaningful agreement that clearly outlines expectations, goals, awards, and consequences.  (Some families even write a simple contract.)  Establish study and homework routines.  (See my blog of November 7, 2008, for more about the importance of routines.)


U – Use a daily assignment planner and project calendar.  Help your student to budget his time effectively and to organize himself at study and homework time so as not to waste his – and your – time.  (See my blogs of September 9 and September 11, 2008, and November 11 and November 13, 2008 for more about homework.)


D – Define your student’s needs and identify the skills he needs to address performance problems.  Same for strengths.  What skills does he need to make his talents even stronger?  Focus on these skills and needs.  Don’t let him try to multi-task while you’re improving.  Can’t be done.  (See my blog of November 25, 2008, “The Myth of Multitasking.”)


Y – You are your child’s greatest advocate.  Be a partner to help her achieve her highest academic potential.  Older students appreciate increasing independence, but stay nearby, ready to support and encourage when necessary.  Your active interest is never in question.  (See my upcoming about “What to Insist on in a School.”)



If you have tips for other parents about how to communicate with, organize, support, and advocate for your child, we’d love to hear them.  Simply click the “comment” button and share your ideas and comments with us.


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