Most people are familiar with the popular reality court show Judge Judy. Fortunately for Teachers on Call, we have our very own Judy on our team, only she is a principal. For fans of her series with us, A Principal’s Perspective, her latest blog covers a very popular topic with families - how to improve your child’s grades! We like to think of ourselves as experts on this topic at Teachers on Call, as are online and in-person tutoring services are utilized by students who want to achieve strong results in school. While engaging an in-person or online tutor is on Principal Judy’s list, read on to learn all her suggestions on how to help your child reach their full academic potential.
One of the questions educators often get from parents is “What do we need to do to improve X’s grades?” It is an interesting question, and there are many ways to answer it. My first response is usually: it is not what “we” need to do, it is up to “X”. That being said, here are six things you can do to support your student to help them improve their grades.
Start early and be involved in your child’s education.
Please do not wait for a report card to have the conversation with your student. Ask each day. Ask in detail – not just “How did your day go?” or “What did you do at school?” You will likely receive responses like “good” and “nothing”. Instead, ask what work they did in each class. Ask about their successes and challenges. Find out what they are enjoying and what they are struggling with doing. Ask early and ask often.
Go to the “meet the teacher” night – from an educator’s perspective, students whose parents/guardians are involved in their education tend to achieve at higher levels. Find out how to become involved at the school – whether it is School Council, volunteering, helping with events.
Here is a great resource from the Ontario Ministry of Education with ideas and tips for families.
Get the student involved in their academic plan.
Another great place to start is by having a conversation with your student. What are their goals? What are their challenges? What are they enjoying? How do they study and review? These four questions are a good place to start to understand their feelings and goals.
After you have had the conversation, set up a time for the two of you to meet with the teacher. Ask the teacher what they see are the challenges. Do they match what the student sees as the challenges? If not, why not? Work with the teacher and your student to co-create a plan for improvement. This plan will be as varied as the student, so be prepared to also meet with guidance, resource personnel or administrators to get a full picture of all the supports that are available and how you and your student can access them.
Review everything you have learned together and help them create a written action plan to improve. Then, help them implement the plan!
Set aside a dedicated time and space for studying.
Having a dedicated time and space for study is important for everyone. Oftentimes, students will choose to work in/from their bedroom. This has pluses and minuses. It can provide them with a quiet workspace, but without some supervision, it can also have a lot of distractions.
Work with your student to set the parameters. When will they study? Pick a time that is convenient (giving a bit of time after school for them to get a snack, wind down, etc. but also not so late that they are losing focus). Be consistent. If you all agree that 7 – 9 pm is study time, for example, then that is also a no social media time/streaming shows or movies time. Many students find having some quiet music playing is helpful, so go over all the different parameters that will be part of studying.
Here is a great list of ten things to consider when setting up your student’s study space. There are also a number of YouTube videos which review study spaces. Have some fun with your student researching what will work for them – and then help them implement it.
Review homework expectations and test guidelines together.
As part of your daily conversation about what happened at school, be sure to ask about homework, upcoming tests, etc. Having this be part of your conversation will help you and your student keep on top of expectations.
Here are some other tips and tricks from one of my previous blogs on how to develop your child’s study skills.
Engage an in-person or online tutor for help.
Of course, sometimes what a student most needs include the outside support of a tutor. Times and subject expectations have changed since we were in school, and courses are much more challenging. Add to that the parent/child dynamic, and it is no wonder so many people reach out to us to engage a professional tutor. At Teachers on Call, our tutors are all certified teachers, and our intake coordinators are retired administrators (like me!). We are here to help your student get to the next step and achieve their academic goals.
Adjust your language and thoughts around grades.
One final thought: think about how you frame your questions, language and thoughts around grades and what it means to be successful. Not all students will get 100%. Your view of success will influence your student. Avoid thinking of it as “all or nothing”. Instead, focus on what they have done well and prepare a plan for next steps. There are many avenues to take to get to different goals – be open to all of them.
This is a very complex subject that is difficult to fully cover within one blog. There are many great resources out there, and we encourage you to look online for more suggestions. One of my personal favourites is from The New York Times on how to help your child succeed at school. Part of the reason it is my favourite is because of this line, “Love the child you have, not the child you wish you had.”
We hope you continue to enjoy Principal Judy’s series, A Principal’s Perspective. For future columns, stay connected on the Teachers on Call blog.
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