Back to school: Teachers share best advice on how parents can help children

With an estimated 1.7 million Georgia public school students starting school in the next two weeks, here are some tips for helping kids succeed. And most of them focus on the role and attitude of parents, something that research increasingly affirms can be a game changer in student performance.

Last year for a story for the print newspaper, I asked teachers on Facebook and Twitter for their best advice for parents. In 24 hours, 125 responded, sending us notes at 4 a.m., in between planning meetings and while waiting for their own kids to finish band practice. Some wrote the equivalent of book chapters, illustrating the most important piece of advice to parents: Realize your children's teachers want them to succeed. I never shared all their good advice on the blog, but decided to do so this year.

As an elementary school music teacher said, "We are on the same side. We're not in teaching for the fabulous salary or fame. We're here because we love children and we love teaching and we want the world to be a better place (sounds cliché, but it's true). Please let us know the important things about your child, and listen when we do the same."

Here is advice by grade:

Elementary school

Bedtime for k-2 students should be no later than 7:30-8 p.m.; 3rd-4th grades no later than 8-8:30; 5th no later than 9 p.m.; middle school no later than 10 p.m., and high school no later than 11 p.m.

Children must eat breakfast.

Read with your child daily for 10 to 15 minutes. Make it fun and interesting; use funny voices, read different types of books --- fiction, nonfiction, magazines.

Reading to your child is wonderful, but take it a step further and have your child practice reading using fluency, phrasing, and speed ... you read it, and then have your child copy your voice.

Check over homework. If it's not done correctly or neatly, have them redo it. Doing their best work at all times carries into their adult lives and jobs. It needs to be a habit.

Spend time with your child. Too often, teachers hear from parents, "I was just too busy ..." Unplug. Go outside, play a board game, cook in the kitchen ... you never know where your child will lead you.

Ask your child, "Teach me something you learned today" rather than ask about "What you did at school today" (usual answer --- "nothing").

Make connections between what kids are learning at school and your life at home and work --- how you use fractions, what you wrote to your relatives in Mexico this week, something you have read, past or present, that has a similar issue to a book your child is reading.

Look at all the papers we send home. We try to use other forms of communication, but that weekly folder is still our go-to method. It breaks my heart to go on a field trip and have to leave a child because his or her parent didn't send the permission form after repeated tries on our part.

If you agree to do something, please follow through. Your children are watching everything you do. If you sign your child up to attend a performance or science fair or athletic event or curriculum night, then bring your child. We understand emergencies. But in 20 years, I've only had one parent tell me about a real emergency. The rest of the time it was, "I forgot" or "We had something else we wanted to do."

Middle school

Your child does not enter a classroom wanting to fail. You do not want your child to fail, and the teacher does not want the child to fail. We all want the same results. We need to figure out how to get there.

The older kids have to read as well, so ask questions about what they are reading. I always asked my son what his favorite part of the day was and his pit of the day. All parents should be doing this, including ESOL parents who can ask their children these things in Spanish.

Teach your child to respect their teachers and any adult in the building. The talking back and plain disrespect is disheartening.

Monitor student progress carefully and get help early rather than later. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Know your child's teachers, friends, where your child is at all times and their grades. Don't worry about whether your kid likes you. If a parent of a teenager is doing the job right, most teenagers will say they don't like you most of the time. I teach teenagers and have raised two sons to adulthood and have a teen still at home. They don't have the brain maturity to make good choices at this age --- you have to limit their choices.

High school

When my students complain of being tired or can't stay awake in class, I ask them if they slept the night before. They usually have slept only a couple of hours due to use of electronics.

For high school students (especially those taking honors and AP classes), let them struggle. Encourage and support them, but don't give them an easy out. Success feels better when it's won through hard work. Help them study, quiz them over vocabulary, ask them to teach you, let them know that you understand how difficult it is.

Many incoming ninth-graders and their parents do not realize ninth grade may be the most important grade of all their high school years. Not only are ninth-graders making many decisions that will impact their future, they are also undergoing many significant physical, emotional and social changes.

Ensure students are fully participating in academics. Kids should be required by their parents to study, complete assignments, and ask for help when they need assistance. Parents should also keep up with their children's progress through online programs and portals where teachers post grades. Full participation by students and parents is an essential component to student success.

Reader Comments

Next Up in Get Schooled

Digital textbooks reduce costs, but do they also reduce learning?
Digital textbooks reduce costs, but do they also reduce learning?

Rick Diguette is a frequent Get School contributor on higher ed issues. He is a local writer who retired from college teaching last year. In this essay, he examines whether the cost savings offered by digital college textbooks – electronic or e-books -- outweigh the potential drawbacks.  Diguette cites the research showing students just...
Metro Atlanta colleges delay opening Tuesday
Metro Atlanta colleges delay opening Tuesday

Several north Georgia colleges and universities are delaying opening until 10 a.m. on Tuesday because of the possibility of black ice and hazardous road conditions. The list includes: Clark Atlanta University Dalton State College Emory University Georgia Gwinnett College Georgia Highlands College Georgia State University Georgia Tech Kennesaw State...
Former Clark Atlanta president departs for next challenge
Former Clark Atlanta president departs for next challenge

A crew arrived Monday morning to move the personal belongings of former Clark Atlanta University president Ronald A. Johnson, whose last day on the job was Friday, who resigned after three-plus years leading one of the largest private universities in Georgia. Johnson prides himself as someone who can see the future, and he believes he can do more for...
Fulton County Schools: Two-hour weather delay Tuesday 
Fulton County Schools: Two-hour weather delay Tuesday 

Fulton County Schools will operate on a two-hour delay Tuesday, “out of an abundance of caution” because of weather reports.  “...(A)ll schools and central offices within the Fulton County School System will open on a two-hour delay tomorrow, December 11, in alignment with Governor Deal's announcement that state...
Kids skip school, join praise of Atlanta’s champs
Kids skip school, join praise of Atlanta’s champs

There is one possible truthful escape from censure for the students who, with their scofflaw parents, played hooky to attend the Atlanta United victory parade Monday: Religion. State regulations limit excused school absences to serious events such as illness or a death in the family. Those claiming that excuse might have to produce some documentary...
More Stories