By Patrick McNamara
You do your best to keep your child on task with his or her homework and studying, but what happens when they get their report card and the results are not so great?
- Don’t Ignore It. Your child will likely say, “Don’t worry, I was confused, but I’ve got it now.” That might be true, but you need to understand what happened this quarter, before you can accept that answer. Listen to your child’s explanation, but remember: trust, but verify.
- Review the school’s parent/student portal. Did your child turn in all the homework? Did they do poorly on a lot of quizzes or just have one bad test? If you haven’t been checking the portal, now is the time to start. When you contact the teacher, you want to show that you’ve already gathered all the available information.
- Contact the teacher. Email is probably the best way to start a conversation, but you may want to have a phone conversation as well. Emails are often brief, and you never know what useful information you might learn during an open-ended phone conversation. Moreover, teachers like to know that they are getting support from parents, and many teachers will go the extra mile if they believe a student and their parents are making every effort, too.
- Review expectations and goals with your child. Discuss what is expected for the next quarter. Confirm that things that are entirely in your child’s control (i.e., homework assignments) must be done 100 percent. Define (perhaps escalating) consequences if they fail to meet expectations.
- Follow up with your child weekly, at least at first. What homework/quizzes/tests are coming up? Has that big term project been started? What grades did they get last week? School portals aren’t always updated in a timely fashion.
- Check in with the teacher after three to four weeks. Confirm that things are going OK and show that you are staying on top of the issue. If there hasn’t been improvement, you want to know that before the end of the quarter.
- Consider whether tutoring is necessary. Are your child’s results not matching up with their effort? Many teachers and schools provide free after-school help. Some teachers are available for paid tutoring, and tutoring companies provide a wide variety of tutoring services, including assessments to better understand the reasons for the struggle, instruction geared towards addressing underlying skill gaps, and traditional homework help.
Patrick McNamara is the Executive Director of Sylvan Learning of Albany and Clifton Park, which provides tutoring services and academic coaching (www.SylvanLearning.com).