We often hear our students say “I have NO IDEA how to study for this class.” I imagine you have heard a version of that statement before at your house. As a parent, statements like this can make us feel helpless. What can we do? We don’t know how to study for the class either. We are not even in it.
This is the perfect situation to bring to parent-teacher conferences.
Think back over the semester. If your student has been struggling, they have probably been repeating the same version of a certain, “I don’t know…” statement again and again. The scenario on repeat is a clue to the help your student needs to succeed. Before attending conferences, take the time to have a conversation with them.
Some questions to spark dialog…
· What confuses you about this class?
· What do you wish the teacher would tell you?
· What do you need to know to make class expectations clearer?
· Do you feel like you are just guessing about what the teacher expects?
· What would make things better for you?
· How do you prepare for quizzes, tests, or projects?
· Does anything feel like a mystery that you are supposed to solve?
The answers to these questions can help you formulate a list of questions for the teacher. They also provide excellent feedback to the teacher about how your student, and others, are feeling towards their class.
Knowing our strengths gives us something to build on.
When you speak to the teacher always include the question, "What is my student doing well? What is their strength?" Many students are nervous around conference time, they worry that the teacher only has bad news to share. Discussing positive attributes and efforts can buoy confidence and confirm to the student that they are seen. It is always meaningful to hear a compliment from a teacher and have our parents hear it too! Knowing that one's strengths are recognized gives students something to build on.
Turn feedback into success
Now what? When you return home, have a conversation with your student. The feedback is not helpful if it stays stuck in your head. Begin with the positive news and celebrate the wins. Cheer them for their strong character traits, not just grades and accomplishments. Character traits like hard work, curiosity, and kindness are what truly make them the good humans you aspire to raise.
Success starts with the student
Before you start making suggestions, begin by asking your student what they plan to do. More often than not, students will have some self-awareness. If this is the case, you can skip the tension-inducing lecture and move on to brainstorming some solutions. Give your student the benefit of the doubt then work together to determine a few new strategies and habits. Consider the feedback you received learned at the conference.
Seeking help is a sign of maturity
If talking with your student about these things is hard, you are not wrong. It is hard. You are not alone. Kids will often push back against their parents’ logical and well-intentioned advice simply because they are their parents. Yet, everyone needs coaching sometimes. It can help to look outside the family. Encourage students to find help where they can… strong-student friends, school tutoring, office hours, Kahn Academy… There are many sources, including The Study Coaches. Everyone needs a coach in their life. Give us a call or email and we can help you decide if now is the time for your student.
Kari and the Study Coaches Team