October 27, 2017--We are already a little more than one quarter of the way through the year in the Secondary School and this means that reports have just gone home. Parent-Student-Teacher conferences also happened this week and this provides an opportunity to formally check in, and more importantly prompt ongoing conversations at home to further your child’s learning.
Following the conferences it is important to continue to regularly check in with your child, following up with the concrete information received from the report card and from the teachers at the conferences. The expectation was that you would have attended with your child so that each of you will have heard the same key areas of strength to build upon, as well as the same key areas in need of further development.
As you continue to engage your child in conversations please focus them back to the learning expected in the class and the approaches to learning required to develop and deepen their understanding, and do not focus on their grades. Academic achievement as measured through grades is not a driving purpose, and focusing on grades does not improve learning. Instead, focusing on grades has been shown to increase stress and actually impede academic achievement.
Before you continue to talk with your child about improving their learning, make sure that you have adequate time and ensure that you have pre-established the key messages that you want to focus on for that specific conversation - that is, go into a conversation with your key messages already in mind. For example, if organization was noted as an issue, make sure that you review the plan that you made with your child ahead of time and then focus the most next conversation on the degree to which those collaboratively established plans are being met.
In terms of talking with your child about learning, make sure that you are spending most of your time listening to, rather than talking at your child. The goal should be for you to find out what is impeding your child from reaching their potential and then work together to implement strategies to address what is in the way. If, in listening you determine your child is doing her best, then the goal is being met - that is, it could be the case that a given grade is the best it can be for that point in time. Lectures and motivational speeches might have their time and place, but your ongoing conversations about fostering learninghave to be about that - fostering learning, and to achieve this end, as adults we need to listen and learn how to support our kids.
As you are talking with your child about learning, try and focus as concretely as you can on decisions your child made, strategies they employed, and what they have concretely done (or not don) to further their learning. Listening and encouraging key decisions in a specific manner will move them further forward as compared to general comments that evaluate their progress in a general sense. In order to speak to such concrete examples, time has to be spent with your child listening so that you can learn concretely about what they are doing.
If your child is not where you think they should be and you are not getting sufficient information at home, then please make sure you come to school to get the information you need to help support your child’s learning. As students progress through Secondary School it can become more challenging to obtain the information you need to support your child. This is common and we are here to help. Regardless of what your child says, however, know that they do want you involved and they need you to be involved … in spite of what they may say.
The last thought to keep in mind is that, while expectations increase over High School as pressure increases as students get ready to apply for university, we are serving the long-term development of our students. Our goals are to develop a love of learning and most importantly an independence of learning that will carry our students through university and into their lives beyond. We have to keep those bigger picture goals in mind, of developing Creative, Open-minded, Responsible, Excellent people and that grades do not well summarize their broader goals. Grades do matter, but they are not the end we are primarily serving - as a school, we are here to serve our students as they become their best selves as framed by our ISD CORE Values.