Listen Up

By Diane Schlindwein

June 5, 2009 4 min read


Teachers have a lot to say about success in school

Diane Schlindwein

Creators News Service

You've heard it before -- as a parent you are your child's first teacher. You alone have more influence than anyone else on his or her behavior, values and work ethic. However, when it comes to getting the school year off to a good start, it always helps to pay attention to what professional educators have to say.

"I love when people want to know what teachers would recommend to parents and students about how to have a successful school year," said Richard "Dr. Rick" Bavaria, senior vice president for education outreach for Sylvan Learning. "As a 40-year teacher, I've picked up a few tips."

First and foremost, organization is key to a child's success, Bavaria said. "Get yourself organized. Keep a planner, electronic or written, and keep track of important dates like when book reports are due, tryouts for the school play, the science fair and, of course, tests."

Maintaining healthy, helpful routines will also make the school year go more smoothly, he added. "Have a regular time for study, recreation, homework, bedtime, mealtime and other important activities," he said. "Routine gives you structure and a feeling of control."

Jennifer Alexander, a reading and language arts teacher at Casper Classical Academy in Casper, Wyo., agreed. "Children like routine, so give it to them," she said. "Classrooms are based on routines and schedules and kids will fit into a schedule at home, too."

Kindergarten teacher Lacey Voneye of Newcastle, Wyo., said very young children especially need a solid home environment to succeed. "Sleep is a very big thing," she said. "They also need to eat right and avoid a lot of sweets.

"With the little ones, these basic things are very important. I think little kids generally like school, but they are influenced by what they hear their parents say. So watch what you say."

Bavaria added that while parents are maintaining a schedule, they should talk to their kids about school every day. "They should also talk to teachers regularly, either during scheduled meetings or through e-mail," he said. "Know when report cards are distributed, when the major tests are given, when important events are held.

"Let your children know that you know. Keep them on schedule. Nag when you need to. And if you suspect that your student is having difficulty in a subject, get help early. Get a tutor, ask a teacher to help, ask a National Honor Society member, just don't put it off. It's easier to solve a problem in its early stages than when it blossoms into a huge one."

Alexander said that parents should never forget how key they are to success. "I can't stress it enough. Parents are the key to our whole educational system. Think of it as a three-legged stool: the child, the school and most importantly, the parent," she said. "If one is not engaged -- for example, the parent sends the child to school to be fixed or taught without participating in the process -- then the stool falls down, no matter how hard the other two try to hold it up. The balancing act is very hard.

"Reward your child with praise -- and time together -- for good study habits, finishing homework, turning in work and trying their best, doing their best at their 'job,'" Alexander said. "Talk to your child and listen to what they are saying. They will teach you where they are in their learning."

No matter what happens during the school year, Bavaria said it is important to keep a positive attitude. "This is true for parents and students alike," he said. "There will be good days and weeks and there will be not-so-good ones. Keep it all in balanced perspective."

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