October 27, 2014

Be a partner in the process — to your child and your child’s teachers and tutors

As a parent, you know how hard you work to stay involved in your child’s education: You lead PTO meetings, chaperone field trips, coach the soccer team. But when it comes to your child’s schoolwork—sometimes less is more. Though you may be tempted to help your child with all her assignments, experts say striking a balance of responsibility between parent, student, and teacher, is vitally important. Sociology professors Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris, of University of Texas Austin and Duke University respectively, surveyed students to find out how parental involvement contributed to educational success. Robinson and Harris note that successful students, “[describe] mothers and fathers who set high expectations and then [step] back.” These parents provide guidance and goals, without circumventing their child’s independence. According to Robinson and Harris’ research, being a partner in the process, to your student and to educational professionals, will maximize your child’s opportunity to succeed.partnership

So—how can you be your student’s best partner? How can you support your child’s teachers and tutors? Follow these golden rules and both students and teachers will rejoice!

  1. Guide, don’t tell. If your child feels he is determining which strategies work best for him, he will take ownership of the process and be more likely to engage with his work. Your child’s teachers are guiding too, helping him choose the right strategies for his own strengths and weaknesses. The key here is to be his parent, not his teacher or his personal homework editor. Ask questions like, “Would it be helpful for us to work together?” or “What approaches has your teacher suggested?” These questions turn responsibility over to your child, and encourage him to use the tools he’s acquired in class.
  2. Open lines of Communication.  Asking the right questions at parent-teacher conferences can make all the difference. Every teacher is different, and prefers different levels of communication. So it’s important to ask, “How often would you like updates from me?” or “How would you like me to contact you if something pressing occurs at home?” Frequent communication allows teachers and tutors to react to behaviors in real-time, tailor sessions to immediate needs, and understand their student’s home environment. The more information a teacher has at her disposal, the better she can serve your child.
  3. Support teachers’ efforts at home. Parents have an opportunity to reinforce strategies all week long during homework time. So, another wonderful question to bring to your parent-teacher conference would be: “You’re doing great work — what should I do at home to support your efforts?” Willingness to assist and thoughtful inquiry both help to build a strong, communication-based partnership with teachers. And, understanding what tools your teachers are using can help you implement similar work at home. Parents can guide students towards the crucial practice that makes new habits “stick.”
  4. Show that you trust your child’s educators. When you buy in, kids buy in too. Showing your child you value education, believe in their abilities, and trust each educator’s plan helps students to value, believe, and trust, too. Parents can strengthen the bond between tutor and tutee, which is integral to students’ progress. When students believe their education is valuable, they are more likely to regard work with a tutor or teacher as useful. In turn, they are likely to apply those “useful” strategies and initiate habit-formation. Students also feel supported through challenges when they understand the necessity of their perseverance. So- giving a teacher your trust can lead to easier habit-formation, elevated confidence, and increased willingness to overcome obstacles or challenges.
  5. Engaging Minds appreciates your willingness to help us help your kids! Continue to ask us what you can do to support our efforts at home; we’re always happy to continue that conversation and share our ideas. Let us know what you see between sessions, so we can customize lessons and address progress or problems at home. Tell us what’s going on at school that might be affecting your child’s ability to learn. And let your child do their homework, with guidance and encouragement, not authority. In short: support your child’s teachers and tutors, open lines of communication, and give your child the reins. Your partnership will make the difference.