There are many factors we cannot control when it comes to how our young ones experience the classroom— will the other students be kind and helpful? Will the teachers truly be advocating on behalf of your child?
As a parent, we tend to question our decisions constantly, because we truly want the best for our kids. If you find yourself asking “How can I make sure my child gets the most out of this school year?” you are not alone. We went to a local expert to find out, in his experience, what tactics work best for every personality type, learning style, and grade level out there!
When I say “expert” I do not think that’s an exaggeration. As an educator, Larry Wagner taught in Klamath Falls for over 30 years. As a parent, some might say that Larry could earn a gold medal for helping his kids succeed in school, with one having graduated Valedictorian of her high school class and another having graduated from West Point, a prestigious military university.
Larry has seen thousands of kids walk through his school building, and over that stretch of time, most educators discover there is only so much you can do in the classroom. How your child is mentally prepared for the day can most often be the strongest determinant of how they will face the challenges presented to them at school.
So, let’s see what tips Larry has discovered over the years that can truly make a difference!
1.Create a connection between their passions and their education.
“Ask. What motivates your child? Find a way to spark their interest.”
This is a great piece of advice because it initiates an important conversation between you and your child: what are their interests? What do they care about? Use that to give them a reason to go to school!
It is nearly impossible to get someone, anyone, to perform well when doing something they don’t give a care about. Can you think of an activity right now that you skimmed over because you really just… didn’t care?
Find out what it is for your child. Is it as simple as a sport? A hobby they have? Maybe they really enjoy baking. Do a little research and find out how their education will genuinely help them be more successful when doing this. Help them make this connection and light their fire for learning.
2. “Get them Reading. Find something they’re interested in and just get them reading”
This is important for so many reasons. Larry pointed out, it gets them involved in another world, challenging their creative thought processes and helping them think in multiple dimensions. Reading enables you to appreciate how other people might perceive your actions because, in a story, we are made to think from the mind of someone else navigating unique social, mental, and physical issues.
Once again, knowing your kids’ interests gives you an edge. Maybe they ABSOLUTELY HATE reading, maybe they’re dyslexic and it brings them to tears. Regardless, if you find something they’re interested in their world will shift and they will have the desire and thirst to explore this new, written world.
I have a sibling who struggled to learn to read and would come home some days, an emotional wreck because reading gave her headaches and an inferiority complex. It was the bane of her education. One day in 5th grade she started reading a series that completely engrossed her and suddenly, we rarely saw her without a book in her hands. She became more confident and eventually overcame any misgivings she had about the written word (aside from the normal apprehension of reading the average textbook).
Through reading, without realizing it your child will develop a broader vocabulary, increased ability to articulate thoughts and feelings in a sophisticated way, and even gain an increased attention span.
I would like to emphasize, I am absolutely NOT saying that you need to stick a dictionary or textbook under their nose to make them more intelligent. Any book (fiction or Non-fiction), as long as it interests them, will place them on a path that exponentially increases their chances to succeed in school and beyond.
3.“Some schools allow you to check your child’s grades online. If you can, take advantage of this.”
At a certain age, you may start to feel that this is an invasion of their privacy. I would strongly advise that you look at this as one of the moments to wear your “parent” hat and invade away.
A friend who struggled in school growing up always said that he hated when his parents asked about grades, and when they discussed school he would pretend that he was doing well in spite of some barely passing grades. The reality was, he was embarrassed and needed help.
If your child is struggling in school and you are able to see their grades and monitor their progress, it enables you to encourage and help them. If your child isn’t understanding something and you catch it early, it can be much easier to overcome as concepts build on one another and missing a step can make keeping up more difficult.
Most parents have at least one full-time job and, as much as they care, they barely have the time to do their own work let alone help with their child’s. Like I said, this is an opportunity for you to provide them with the tools they need. Ask the school to help you find a tutor!
Just remember, whenever you see that your child needs a little help to succeed, it’s not a punishment, you’re not necessarily disappointed, you’re just on their team and want them to understand what’s happening in school or about other resources available to help your child succeed.
4. Help them find the connection between “talk” and “action”
“My daughter has a girl who is very talkative, very communicative and smart. But she has trouble with being all talk. Try to help them make a connection between talk and action.”
I think this is another area we could all admit we struggle with occasionally. It’s easy to have big ideas about what you’re going to accomplish, and sometimes we even take that first step in the process. Bringing it all the way home, that’s the struggle.
So how do we help them in an area that even we struggle with? Wagner suggested using incentives to encourage them to complete tasks. He said it could be monetary, like an allowance for finishing their homework. Or, it could be something else that they just enjoy, as simple as an hour of video games after their homework is completed. (If your child is truly struggling, you might want to skim the work and make sure they truly attempted to complete it before moving on to the incentive).
5. Get them involved!
Sports, choir, band, FFA, FBLA, anything and everything that helps them stay involved and engage will continue to push them and also give them some social relief from the stress of academics.
Wagnor pointed out that both of his daughters were involved with extracurriculars, such as cross country and yearbook while they were in school. He thinks these activities played a key role in keeping their attitudes fresh and helping them stay motivated.
Sometimes, these clubs and activities can also be your child’s first notion of what a job will be like. For your child, working with other people who rely on their efforts to produce a good final product is key to a successful future. The peer accountability can encourage kids to be more responsible and take more pride in their work.
Being involved also emphasizes our points 1 and 4, as most of these activities will help light that spark that motivates them to go to school and do well, and pushes them to complete their projects.
6. Set an example!
Wagnor pointed out that many kids subconsciously let their parents set the bar for how motivated they should be in life. If they see you finishing projects and taking pride in your work they will start to see this as a norm! So yes, I’m throwing a little self-love in here as being a key part of helping set your child on the path for a successful school year. Be the best YOU you can be, and your little ones will be likely to imitate that.
Thank you, Larry Wagner, for some great tips to help you #FindYourPath to a fun first week of school!