December 23, 2014

Hit the reset button and start anew!

Fall semester can be tough for students of all ages; students make the “back-to-school” adjustment in September, have only short vacations through October and November, then find themselves in the shortened month of December, prepping for comprehensive exams and term papers. Luckily, the spring time offers a wonderful opportunity to renew and refresh your students’ goals, work ethic, and study skills. However, every great plan needs to start from the beginning, which means preparing early and preparing well. So, with the 2015 New Year approaching, let’s all resolve to make second semester better than the first! Here are some tips to help your student get a head start:

Reset button

  1. Assess both what went right and what went wrong, during first semester: Engage in discussions with your child about his own progress. What were his major achievements, and what were his biggest obstacles? Help your child develop as comprehensive a list as possible, including both positives and negatives, so he can begin to make a plan to improve. Your child can even track his skills using an online self-assessment, like Education Planner.
  2. Connect with Teachers: If your child had a difficult first semester, or was surprised by his recent grades, connecting with teachers should be among his first steps when starting his new semester. Teachers can give feedback to help your child determine where things went wrong, why they went wrong, and what he can do to make a change. Second semester often builds off of concepts learned first semester, so touching base with teachers to clarify lingering confusion can help your child start off on the right foot. Teachers can also offer extra credit opportunities, direct students toward relevant resources, or make changes to their teaching methods to accommodate specific classroom needs.
  3. Set SMART Goals, but not too many! Creating lists of long and short-term goals is one of the first steps toward achieving them. Still– it’s important to keep things in perspective and set just a few goals at a time. Help your child set a SMART goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant/Realistic, and Time-bound. For example, if your child struggled to turn in his homework last semester, challenge him to take small, but specific, steps toward his larger objective (turning in his work!) — something like: “At the start of each class, I will take out my binder and check for homework to be turned in.”
  4. Be thoughtful about scheduling: Was your child overwhelmed last semester by one too many courses? Consider how you might help him tailor his course selection or course load to reflect what he can realistically manage. Did your child have too much down time, limiting his sense of structure and responsibility? Maybe pick up an extracurricular activity, like theater or sports, to compliment his classroom learning. Were all his after-school activities stacking up on just one or two days? Try spreading out his responsibilities so he can work toward his goals a little each day.
  5. Encourage positivity: Studies show that, even when you aren’t in a “good mood,” if you practice optimism in your thoughts and actions (smiling, being gracious, etc.) your body will respond by producing a genuine, positive emotional response. Within reason, encouraging your child to focus on the positives (without completely ignoring areas of improvement) can be an excellent tool for success. “Success breeds success” is a well-researched phenomenon; noting early successes from the first semester can help to propel your student forward on a path toward ongoing achievement.
  6. Create a “Syllabus at a glance” planner: Does your child’s teacher provide him with assignments far in advance? If yes, winter break can be an excellent time to set up a new assignment notebook, complete with all important due dates. Previewing the semester ahead, even before he starts, can help your child visualize long-term plans for cumulative projects, papers, and tests. Looking ahead to future assignments also alerts your student to supplies he may need. Starting a new class? Order the book now. Need a different kind of binder? Head to your local office supply store. With all his materials at the ready, your child is better equipped to excel. He can even make a spreadsheet, like this one, to keep all his upcoming responsibilities in one place.

Help your child put these six ideas in motion, and see him start spring semester feeling informed, refreshed, and prepared. With the right understanding, perspective, and plans, there’s no telling what your child can do! So let’s make that resolution, and stick to it: second semester will be better than first.