6 January 2014 08:00 AM

A Half Dozen New Year's Resolutions for School Success

by rbavaria

Happy New Year!  Here it is the beginning of the new year, and we’re all busily making our New Year’s Resolutions, which we all know from experience will last – maybe – until the middle of January.  We’re well-intentioned but not always good on perseverance. 

Since our kids follow our behavior better than they do our advice, it may be a good time to reflect on what New Year’s Resolutions we’re going to be making this year. 

I have an idea.  How about making a resolution, along with your kids, that can help them achieve in the classroom and beyond? 

Remember the goals you made at the beginning of the school year in September? The ones that narrowly focused on a couple of subjects, behaviors, habits, or attitudes?  I’ll bet the recent holidays managed to pry your attention away from them, right?  Now might be a good time for you and your kids to re-focus, as school starts again.

That’s the good thing about school – you get two new years!

We parents and teachers know well that the best way to ensure our kids are doing what we want them to do is to check up on them.  And the best way to check up is regularly but randomly.  You learned that in Psych 101, remember?  Random checks, rewards, and consequences go a long way to changing behaviors.

So, here, in the spirit of the New Year, and in the hope of re-kindling those school goals, are a half-dozen suggestions of things you can randomly check up on.  Feel free to substitute ideas that work with your family.  Let your kids know you’re going to be taking an enhanced interest in their schooling.  They’re gripe a little, maybe even roll their eyes (“Yeah, we’ve heard this before”), but make it your sole New Year’s Resolution and they’ll soon see you’re serious.

Check on their . . .

1.      Homework and study areas.  They can’t find their supplies, notebooks, texts, or other study materials if they’re constantly disorganized or their study areas are FEMA sites.  Drop in periodically, unannounced, to have a check. 

2.      Projects.  You’ve read it here before.  Break up scary big projects into easy, smaller ones.  This requires staying to a schedule.  Waiting until the day before the Science Fair to begin a project is a recipe for embarrassment, frustration, and family drama.

3.      Behavior. How’s behavior in class?  In the halls?  At lunchtime in the cafeteria?  At recess?  On the athletic fields?  Talk about your expectations, and if you feel a reach-out to Ms. Stickler is appropriate, do it.  Communicating with teachers is easier than ever with emails, texts, and school websites complete with private teacher pages.

4.      Studying for tests.  Everyone knows when the “big” tests are given.  The end-of-unit tests, the semester tests, the state tests, and the Friday vocabulary and spelling quizzes.  If teachers can give surprise pop quizzes, so can you, especially when you hear, “But I don’t have any homework tonight!”  Spring a pop spelling or math facts quiz.  They’ll keep on their toes.

5.      Grades.  “Tell me about English class.  What’s likely to be your report card grade in a few weeks?” is a good –and timely – conversation starter.  Kids know what their grades are.  Engage them, listen, vow to help.

6.      Notebooks, computers, and planners.  You can tell a lot about kids’ study habits by looking at their personal school materials.  Usefully neat?  In some kind of order?  Easily used?  Or a disaster zone?  As a teacher, I’m able to do a pretty good diagnosis of kids’ learning by a quick look at their notebooks.  (Backpacks are an even better tell-all.)  Help them learn how to organize.


Every family has its own needs, of course, but take it from this veteran teacher – random checks, honest and helpful, not punitive or “gotcha,” can help kids of all ages know you’re interested in their success and willing to take an active role.  Persist.  You’ll be glad you did.  Eventually, they will, too.  


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