The start of the school year brings a flurry of activity and, often, a wave of anxiety. Along with the latest clothes, the fresh supplies, and the promise of a blank slate, there is also an undercurrent of worry—for both parents and students.
Worry about the expectations of a new teacher. Worry about the unfamiliar routine of a different classroom, or a different school. Worry that the gains of last year may have dissipated over the summer.
But wrapped in those worries, there is opportunity. Students who may have stumbled in the past have a chance to start a new year off on a positive path; those who excelled have a chance to surpass their own performance.
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For pointers on how to make the most of this school year, we surveyed teachers who have witnessed first-hand what separates the students who stumble from those who excel.
Their most common bit of advice? Keep an open line of communication with your child’s teacher.
That could mean an introductory email to the teacher, establishing your interest in your child’s education. It could mean going to the school’s parent night or open house. Or making sure to read and return class information sent home with the student.
In many schools, parents also have online access to grades, attendance and tardy records. In some districts, parents can set up alerts if a child is absent or if a grade falls below a certain level. Be sure that you are familiar with your school’s system—and make frequent use of it.
Most school districts now require teachers to maintain web pages with class information, assignments calendars and copies of handout materials. These sites contain a wealth of information. Check them on a regular basis.
“Never before have parents had such thorough and immediate access to their child’s progress in school,” said one Texas high school teacher. “Even when students are doing well, having conversations about why they are being successful and how they can continue to challenge themselves shows students that you’re paying attention.”
Reaching out to teachers is especially important these days, as educators are being asked to take on more students, more classes, and more paperwork, noted another high school teacher.
“If parents can help kids realize that they need to treat school like a job, it might help the students to take ownership of their education so they can get all they can out of it,” the teacher noted. “This is their ‘full-time’ job until they get in the real world.”
Here are some other teacher tips for school-year success: