by Amy Brooks: PA Certified Social Studies Teacher Grades 7-12, MA in History
Before I start spouting off my recommendations to parents with teens, I wanted you to know that my observations are as a teacher and coach. I am not a mother of a teen. My son is 4, and he is my only child. With that being said, I know I can not fully put myself in your shoes and I realize I may not know what it’s really like having a teenage child.
However, I do know what I have observed as a teacher and coach. I can tell you that the “secrets” I am revealing in this article come from the conversations I had with parents about their struggling child’s progress in my history, psychology or criminal justice classes. Almost every time I met with a student who was struggling in my class I could predict why. The student was doing homework in his or her bedroom, or telling mom and dad they had no homework. The student could have taken better notes in class, and I could go on. The “secrets” I reveal below are the “secrets” I shared with parents when we met at a parent-teacher conference.
Not all assignments involve being on the computer, iPad, etc.
Often when I met with parents at conferences they would ask me how their child could increase test and quiz scores. I always recommended using flashcards. Old fashioned index cards where the student writes an important person or term on one side and a description on another. I would also recommend that a parent or older sibling help quiz the student before they end the study session. Often, parents will see that some descriptions do not make sense (that the student wrote) and therefore are not studying the correct information. This can be rectified before it’s too late!
The Dining Room Table is a better homework setting than the bedroom.
Over and over again when I met with parents of struggling students I would ask, “where does he do his homework?” The answer was “in his room” 99% of the time. MAKE THE DINING ROOM TABLE THE HOMEWORK SPOT. The family distractions are not as detrimental as the ones behind the closed bedroom door.
She didn’t really finish her homework in school (and she does actually have homework)
I could not believe how many students I would observe in study hall not studying. I cannot tell you how many times I asked “don’t you have any work to do?” And heard “I’m done”. Meanwhile, there is a student who has straight A’s across the room with three books on the desk writing diligently. There is always something to work on or study – even if nothing is due the next day. Encourage doing some kind of visible homework each night
Teachers still give notes the old-fashioned way.
It is true that technology has entered the classroom in incredible ways. However, teachers still give notes and require students to take them in a notebook with a pen or pencil. Students still take pen and paper quizzes and tests. You should be able to ask your son or daughter to see his or her notes and see pages of handwritten information. Many teachers prefer this method over newer forms of note-taking. Many teachers that are in the classrooms went to college before Google. Some of them even wrote term papers with a typewriter. All generations of teachers are still in the classroom. Expect to see the good ‘ol marble and spiral notebooks for each subject every year. This is the norm not the exception.
Many students are underprepared in class
And I’m not talking about skill level – I mean they don’t have a writing utensil with them. And this is not because they can’t afford one. Most likely they borrowed one in the last class they were in and somehow a walk to the next class made it go missing. Even though parents tell me they have a closet full of folders, notebooks, pens, and pencils – somehow none of these things get into the classroom. Make sure your child is a prepared student so that each class starts off on the right foot. I always told my students to walk into a class as if they are walking into a job interview. Tuck in your shirt, look and be prepared and respectful. This is practice for life. We (your teachers and parents) want you to win and be successful!
Students DO NOT get enough sleep.
I would overhear often how students were texting and on social media in the middle of the night. I am talking 1:00 am to 4:00 am. I highly recommend your child does not bring his or her phone into the bedroom past a certain hour. Having a time to turn it in and a place to put it that you can see is a good idea. Let them make you the bad guy – deep down they are thanking you for it. Way, way, way deep down, but still!
All teens want to succeed.
I can’t tell you how many times I sat with a parent or parents and a student and the parent said to his or her child, “Just get a 70!” I cringed. I know it must be frustrating, but please don’t tell your child to “just pass”. They long for success and getting a good grade really does make them feel like a million bucks. I can assure you, grading is very different then it was years ago. Most teachers base report card grades on many other things besides test scores. If your child does not test well, but does his or her homework, hands in work on time, participates in class, and truly shows an effort – their report card grade will be much higher than their test average. Success is available to them, encourage it!
Amy Brooks is the author of Be Yourself: A Catholic Journal for Girls, the Founder of CatholicsOnline.net and writes for prayerwinechocolate.com. Amy grew up in Philadelphia and currently resides in Hatboro, PA.