Are you a concerned parent? Are you worried your child will fall through the cracks? Does your child have a teacher who has conveyed vague expectations for success or who doesn’t respond to your child or your attempts to help your child? Then, this post is for you!
If you have read my About Me page, you know that I am teacher. I am a veteran teacher credentialed in both social studies and English. I have taught all grades between six and eleven, and I have taught all academic levels.
In my experience, this post, 19 Ways Your Child Can Succeed in Any Academic Class, is a “tried and true” formula for success in any academic class, and easy for any student to apply. Although I will be writing as a secondary school teacher, these tips can be applied to elementary school as well.
1. Show up. (I told you these were easy tips.)
Teachers of academic classes cover a lot of ground in one day. If your child is absent, no matter how good the reason, it might be hard to catch up with the rest of the class. Today, Email makes it easy to contact the teacher. However, teachers may have many Emails to respond to, reports to complete, and meetings to attend. By the time your child has figured out how to catch up, it may be hard to regain an even footing.
There are options for your child. For example, they could see their teacher at lunch. However, missed school means they would have to see all their teachers at lunch. Some teachers mandate lunch meetings to make up missed tests. Again, by the time they try to catch up with all of their teachers (in elementary school it would be in all of their subjects), the damage may be done especially in classes where the information builds on each other like in math. Even in my class, history, if the student misses the “cause” of the event we are currently studying, the “effect” may not make any sense to them.
2. Show up on time.
There is no excuse for being late to class. It is illegal for a teacher to hold a student and force them to be late to someone elses class. Teachers cannot rob another teacher of instructional time. Suppose nature is calling them. What will they miss, two minutes of instruction, if they are tardy? They get every other hour to use the restroom (at least where I teach). The teacher is juggling starting a class. Their “hook” is at the beginning; that is the time they must engage the students, so they have a successful lesson the rest of the period. In addition, they must take attendance. Also, they must help students who missed the day before and need the class work. Also, they must distribute materials for the period… That moment has got to be tight, and your child saunters in late? You want success? Don’t anger the teacher.
3. Enter quietly. See Tip #2 about the importance of the first few minutes of class. I find if the beginning is tight, the rest of the class is a cake walk. If the beginning is full of disruptive late-comers, I am playing “catch up” all period. By the way, “disruptive late-comers” is redundant. Anyone waltzing in late is disruptive.
4. Have your book(s) with you. What a time-waster having to try to find an extra book for an unprepared student. It is not fair to the students who bring their books to lose this instructional time.
5. Bring pencils to class. Common sense, yes? I can’t tell you how many students don’t bring a writing instrument. I remember once I lent a student a pencil, and he refused to give it back. When I asked why after I was nice enough to lend him the pencil, he explained he needed it for all his other classes.
I wrote pencils, plural. Pencils break, they roll off desks, under backpacks… Many students prefer lead pencils, but they run out of lead. Whether the student is trying to borrow a pencil, get another one from me, or borrow lead, it is disruptive. Parents, please make sure they have more than one writing instrument, pen or pencil
6. Bring paper (again, easy). Imagine a teacher asking students to take out a piece of notebook paper just to have everyone scream, “Does anyone have any paper?” My heart breaks for the parents whose child passes out their paper to the other students. A few prepared students should not have to pay for supplies for the rest of the class. Parents, in addition to sending your child with paper, send them with money to replenish the paper assuming their school has a Student Store where they can buy more on their breaks.
7. Don’t pass notes in class. I confiscate the notes. Let the students think I will show their parents at the next Open House or Back to School Night or Parent Conference. Some teachers read the notes out loud to embarrass the student into never passing a note in class again. I wouldn’t. It would disrupt my class, and I’d lose instructional time, both things I want to avoid.
8. Do your classwork. I get annoyed when students sit and stare at the wall (or socialize) after I’ve given an assignment. When I question them, they explain they plan on doing my classwork for homework. For that reason, if I have given the students ample time to complete the assignment, I don’t take late classwork. I am not a babysitter and resent being treated as such.
9. Do your homework. Most teachers use a point system. The child will be unable to dig themselves out of an academic hole if they fall behind in points.
10. Try and submit your homework early. The teacher will refuse to accept it early, but… they will remember that the child tried to turn the work in early which will leave a favorable impression. If the teacher is on the fence as to what grade to give the child, he or she will remember that the student was finished with it early. I predict they will give the higher grade. Ambition is rewarded.
11. Do the reading assignments even if there is no apparent accountability. There could be a pop quiz based on the material the next day. Reading has been proven to improve writing skills and increase vocabulary as well. Also, practice is valuable; the reading will help down the road on test day. It can be equated to practicing for a big game before the game.
12. Do not complain in front of the other students. It is disruptive and will annoy the teacher. If the student has a complaint, they should see the teacher when convenient for both of them. Students have a need for fairness. If they feel the teacher is not being fair, they should go inquire. Maybe the teacher really did make a mistake in a grade or other assessment. We can’t correct the error if the student doesn’t bring it to our attention. Just do it appropriately–in private.
13. Pay attention. I was told I have to say everything three times before 100% of the students hear me. Pay attention. If the teacher asks the students to do something, they should do it the first time asked.
14. No off-task talking. First, the students get breaks so they can socialize. I knew one woman who brought her son to school an hour early every day just to give him social time. He’d be out of conversation by the time school started!
Also, the trend in education today is cooperative learning. Collaboration, “think-pair-share and the like are all techniques that enable students to talk to each other during class about the curriculum.
15. During the partner work or the group work, be reliable. Students remember years later their resentment when a partner didn’t come through for them, and they felt they had to do the brunt of the work. The resentment that someone else got credit for their efforts lingers, and the other students may request that your child not be placed in their group. Or, if the students choose their own groups, your child will be the proverbial wall flower that no one asks to dance.
16. If your child is going to request extra credit, do it in plenty of time before the grading period ends. It will ease stress for both the student and the teacher.
17. Take notes even when not required. I love it when students take notes using the Cornell note taking format taught in schools today. If I think a student is doing off-task writing, they just hold up their notes, and I can visually see from the two-column formatting and the way the paper is folded that they are, after all, on task.
Thinking maps work well for note taking that the teacher can see from across the room. Circle maps for example, where the student draws a circle inside of a frame and describes in those two contexts what is being studied, can easily be seen by the teacher across the room.
18. Get enough sleep. Students put their heads on their desks. Are they sleeping? What if the back of their head is to me, and I can’t see the whites of their eyes? Sit up. Parents, please ensure your child gets enough sleep to stay awake in class.
19. Don’t plagiarize. I had students in different periods copy each others work, and I didn’t even know they knew each other. If the student tries to “lift” writing from the Internet, technology today enables the teacher to just type in a few words of an essay and know if it was plagiarized. Teachers don’t give students credit for others writing. The sad part is that many students think parents will be proud they did their homework not realizing what they’ve done is tantamount to stealing.
Readers, if you feel any of these tips can help increase academic success, please share.
Parents, this is a proven formula for success in all academic classes, not just social studies and English. Many of these tips are common sense, but both parents and students seem shocked by many of these. Parents, is there an additional tip that has worked with your child that I failed to mention? If you have found any of these to be especially successful, please explain which in the comment section. I look forward to your views.