Back to school: Let's start it off right
The initial attitudes pupils have toward school, their teachers and their subjects go a long way in determining a successful year. There are many things parents can do to start things right.
Back to school Photo: Flash 90
School has started for most Israeli pupils this week. Many of you have bought
new clothes and a variety of school supplies, taking advantage of the multiple
sales in many stores. Now is the best time to prepare your children for success,
intellectually and emotionally. The initial attitudes pupils have toward school,
their teachers and their subjects go a long way in determining a successful
year. There are many things parents can do to start things right. Here are
several of the best.
1. Teach your children to say to their friends,
“Class is starting, let’s talk later,” or similar words. Then teach them to go
to their desk or table. This simple procedure does more to win teachers over
than most things this early in the year. It’s not enough to teach this
procedure. You need to convince your children to actually do it when the pull of
friends is stronger than anything the teacher has to offer.
2. Show your
children how to sit with their backs straight up, to sit in front if that’s an
option and to ask at least one question per hour by respectfully raising their
hand. Research shows these simple procedures, especially with special needs
children, can raise scores by at least 10 points.
3. Teach your children
how to answer the question, “What did you do in school today?” with more than,
“Nothing.” It is important for you to know what your child is learning. How it
is going for them and especially if they are being bullied.
4. Talk to
their teachers as soon as possible about any special learning needs your
children may have; from needing to be close to the front to see, help in
hearing, issues in the family that may affect learning, like a death in the
family. Share whatever you are comfortable with that might affect your
children’s behavior. Also mention any helpful teaching tips related to your
children’s style. Some like group work; others hate it. Some are more visual;
others more auditory, still others more tactile.
5. Play “How it helps”
at dinner. You can use how it helps Israel, or how it helps your child. Each
child and adult has to think of how math, English or any school subject helps
Israel or the target of your choice. For example, science helps Israel become a
world leader in cell phone technology.
6. Everyone at the dinner table,
even guests, has to tell one thing they learned that day before
These last two “games” are designed to create or amplify how
important learning is to the family.
The more learning is important to
you and other family members, the more important it will be to your
7. If your children regularly get homework, start the year with
good homework habits. Set a place that can be set up for no or few
interruptions. Have good lighting, no TV or food except a drink, and no visitors
or phone calls allowed. Set up a regular time.
If days vary with
activities, set a Monday time, a Tuesday time and so on. Check to see that
homework is done each day. If you have a homework concern, now is the best time
to contact your children’s teachers and resolve it.
8. Do not reward good
grades with money, candy, games or anything. That only weakens the value of
learning and equates grades with a commercial gain.
It leads to cheating,
shortcuts and forgetting what was learned as soon as the reward is given. While
this concept might sound inaccurate to some readers, it is research proven,
experience proven and realworld proven.
9. Finally, appreciate effort
more than results. All children can do their best and try hard in difficult
subjects. Not all children can get high grades in everything. Grades are teacher
controlled. Effort is student controlled. Show your children which of these two
you value more and they will soon learn to do their best.
I wish every
parent and child a great and successful year. I hope these ideas are a good way
to get started.
The writer is the director of the behavior disorder
masters program at David Yellin College and the coauthor of Discipline with