Dr Roderick Crouch, Principal of Victoria International School of Sharjah, shares his top tips to keep kids finish the school year on a high.
The half-way point in the academic year is an excellent time for students (and parents) to review and refocus. For some students, the school year will have gone well, others will have had a middling year so far, with so-so effort and average results, often due to a lack of motivation. For a third group, their lack of effort or focus will mean that the end of term will not have come fast enough.
So, no matter which group your child might belong to, how can we as parents use this period to help our children refocus and therefore finish the year on a high?
The first thing we can do is to ensure that we have the correct information about our children’s progress. It is surprising how many parents rely entirely on their children as the sole source of information about their school performance. Get hold of your child’s school report from term 1 (it may be still sitting at the bottom of his or her school bag!) and have a detailed conversation about it with your child. Rather than ask, ‘how do you think it went’, ask questions that require more reflective answers. Ask them what subjects they enjoy the most, and why. Your child should be encouraged to tell you what they found difficult to understand or what they think they need to do to improve. Talk about their natural strengths and weaknesses in learning. If your child’s school has a parent-teacher conference to complement the report, attend it with your child. If they don’t, ask for one. By talking to your child’s teachers, you can stay informed. Good schools (and certainly great teachers) will be constantly keeping you informed. If this is not happening, then ask. It is worth the effort.
The next step is to help children set realistic goals for improvement. Children have a habit of setting unrealistic goals: for example, ‘I will be an A student by Monday’, or ‘I will do five hours of homework a night’.
Often, goals can be so unrealistic that we simply give up after a day. To avoid this situation, help your child break down larger goals into smaller ones – ones that can be achieved in shorter periods of time. The achievement of these goals will boost confidence and provide encouragement. Once goals have been set, discuss what strategies your child can use in order to achieve his or her goals. If the goal is to be an A student by the end of the year, work together to show them how to break this goal down into more achievable mini-goals.
In all of this, it is vital to help our children learn to plan. Teenagers, especially, are poor at planning, with boys generally being worse than girls. We can help our children plan by developing two types of calendars – one that is a weekly schedule and contains all their activities. The other is a termly schedule that has due dates for assignments and the dates of exams. Ask your school for an assignment schedule. Many schools now provide these online so that parents can access them directly. In planning the calendars, remember to allow for some down time. We all need times where we just do nothing, and most importantly of all, get plenty of sleep.
An important part of planning is to develop routines. As parents, we can support our children by helping them to establish and maintain routines. Review the routine about when, where and how homework is completed, to make sure it is achieving its purpose. Other routines to review are morning routines - how children prepare themselves for school each day, do they wake in time to have breakfast, and so on and evening routines that include actually going to bed! In this, strongly encourage your child to turn off his or phone or computer. There is plenty of research that indicates the importance of quality sleep to learning.
In all of this, let us not forget that, as parents, we are still our child’s first and most important teacher. The example we set in how we act and interact with others, and what we do together as a family, will have a greater and longer lasting effect than any goal-setting or routines. Time as a family, whether that be meals or weekend activities is crucial to the healthy wellbeing of all children. So, as we encourage our children to be the best they can be, and to fulfil their potential, it is crucial to remember that the best way to enjoy your children is to put in the time and the effort to be the best parent (rather than the best friend) you can be.