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Kids First Children’s Services in Sydney’s northern beaches recently asked a group of teachers, “What is the one thing you’d like the parents of your students to know?” Each of these experienced educators had a different perspective, but all agreed that you play a huge role in your child’s chances of school success.
Here’s some of their most commonly offered advice…
1. Build a positive partnership with your child’s teacher
Teachers and parent who work together can be a formidable team, but you can really let the side down if you’re careless with what you say to and about a teacher in your child’s presence. Teachers say that if there’s an issue, speak to your child’s teacher privately, not in front of your child. It’s rarely helpful to let your child hear your criticisms of a teacher, so even if you have your own views about the teacher’s personality, skill, judgements or appearance, remember your child has to spend many days and hours in that educator’s classroom. Let your child form his own opinions and help your child to respect the teacher’s role whenever you can.
2. Create order at home
If your child is disorganised at home, teachers tell us there is a fair chance that he’ll be disorganised at school too. To avoid messy desks, lost books and forgotten homework, set up a system at home where routine items are easily located. Establish a set spot for backpacks, shoes and notes that need to be signed. Teachers recommend having a centrally located calendar on which upcoming events are noted so that everyone knows what is going on. If your child has a phone, try using the ‘memo’ or calendar section and teach him how to use this so that he can become accountable for himself and his activities.
3. Give your child time at the end of the day
Studies show that just 10 minutes of undivided attention each day is all that kids need to feel connected to you. Before you check phone messages, read the mail or start organising dinner – teachers advise you to give your child some of your time. You can help your child to transition from school to home by creating a routine where you listen to your child talk about his day. This will show him that he can count on you and that the experiences and feeling of the day can be managed. This small investment of time will encourage the development of emotional intelligence and maturity.
4. Feed your children so they will succeed
Kids need fuel to ensure that their minds and bodies work properly. Teachers say that a well-balanced diet will maximise your child’s learning potential. A healthy breakfast and a lunchbox that’s filled with nourishing snacks are very important for kids of all ages. When each meal contains protein, your child will avoid ‘sugar highs’ that can affect concentration and behaviour. Teachers understand that pre-packaged food is convenient, but they also encourage parents to ensure that the nutritional value of their child’s weekly food intake is high.
5. Give your child a chance to relax
In our busy lives, it’s easy to forget that kids do not have the stamina of an adult. Tired kids find it hard hold it together at school and home, so teachers recommend that you try to maintain a schedule that allows your children to go to school rested. Include calm, peaceful times in your children’s afternoons and evenings so that they have the energy to concentrate, learn and behave well at school
6. Remember…homework is for your child, not you
The only way a teacher can determine what your child knows is by receiving work that is truly his. By all means, encourage, support and show your child how to answer homework questions, but don’t do the work for him! Teachers tell us that they gauge what a child has learned and understood by what they are able to remember and complete independently. Doing homework by themselves also helps children learn to be responsible for the quality of their work.
7. Have a Plan B for sick kids
What happened when you last went to work feeling unwell? Did you have the best day ever? Teachers tell us asking kids to manage the demands of a challenging classroom when they are ill is unfair. They recommend that families have a system in place so that sick children can stay home and get better, both for their own sake and the sake of their classmates and teachers. Of course, you’ll know how to sensitively and sensibly manage a tummy ache that mysteriously appears on the morning of a spelling test, however teachers remind us that children can’t learn or behave as well as they might when they are sick. And if the teacher catches the bug, the whole class’s learning may be interrupted if the teacher has to take sick leave.
8. Let kids know it’s OK to ask questions
Teachers note that some children are so conscious of looking foolish in front of their teachers and peers that they are afraid to raise their hand and ask a question in class. You can be a good role model for your kids and teach them to believe that no question is a dumb question. Kids do ask silly questions…sometimes over and over again, but that’s part of being a child. When you respect your child’s questions and encourage his efforts, teachers tell us that he is likely to be more willing to give unfamiliar things a try at school.
9. Balance screen-time with reading-time
The time children spend on ‘screens’ alarms many teachers. There’s no doubt that computers, iPads, smart phones and other devices are a great sources of information and enjoyment, but teachers also tell us that books still have value. They offer children quiet opportunities to explore using their imaginations and to expand their knowledge. Teachers encourage families to fill their homes with books that kids can read, look at and find answers to life’s many questions in. They also advise you to encourage your kids to join and borrow from the public or school library. This will empower them and expose them to a variety of resources that will broaden their horizon.
10. Find ways to tell your kids you love them
Teachers say that kids who are confident and know that they are loved often find is easy to be kind to others. You can remind your child of your love for him by tucking a note into his lunch box or sending him a text message to let him know that you are thinking of him. As they get older, your children might not want to hold your hand or give you a kiss as they walk through the school gate – but no matter how old they are, they will always need affirmations from you. You may need to be inventive as you find discreet ways to build your child’s confidence, but the most important thing to remember is that secure kids are usually happy kids…. and happy kids find it easier to learn and make friends.
This article was written by Sonja Walker
Kids First founder & teacher
© 2015 Kids First Children’s Services
Does your child need help to feel more confident at school?
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Unlike other tuition services who use computers or employ unqualified high school or uni students as ‘tutors’, Kids First’s team of professional educators have years of classroom experience behind them.
Our after school classes support children who need to build skills in Maths and English. Kids First’s teachers also provide stress-free, small group programs for children preparing for NAPLAN, Opportunity Class, Selective Schools and Scholarship exams.
Find out more about our teachers here or call Kids First now on (02) 9938 5419 to arrange a free 30 minute education screening for your child.