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In my nearly 30 years of teaching, I have worked with many students who are struggling and anxious. There are times when these kids are their own worst enemy. The choices they make often exacerbate the problem. Here are some choices students make that affect their success in school.
Do I feel well enough to go to school today? Encourage your child to strive for perfect attendance. The amount of work he does in a day at school is pretty daunting. He spends 45-plus minutes in each class discussing new concepts, taking notes, practicing problems, writing essays, or doing group work. Activities like class discussions and group work cannot be made up after an absence. He normally has homework assignments that relate to the class work. Unless he was there, he cannot do the homework. Each day he misses adds tremendously to his struggle and anxiety about school. There are times when missing school cannot be avoided (such as, he has a virus or is running a fever), but unless that’s the case, send him to school. For more about attendance, see “Student Absences: They Hurt Learning More Than You Might Think.”
Should I work on my homework right now? Teach your child that school is hard work that takes a lot of time. A strong work ethic is more related to success in school and life than is intelligence. She needs to set aside plenty of time each day to complete the work that is due the next day. She also needs to complete some portion of any long-term projects she has been assigned. This prevents her from being caught trying to do a project that was supposed to take two weeks on the night before it is due. To make sure she does not forget something, she needs to have a planner where she writes down everything that is due (including the chunks of each project) and checks each off as she completes it.
Should I study for my English test tonight? Your child needs to understand that studying takes time and works better when spread over several nights. Reading through his notes is not studying. It is a good thing to do, but it does not assure that he actually knows the concepts and can recall them on a test. Read “Teach Your Kids How To Study” for help knowing what studying really is.
I was talking to a colleague who said that he puts a question on every test that asks students to tell him how they studied for it. He said that kids are pretty honest about answering it, and it gives him the opportunity to ask them whether they think that was a good choice or not. I might add two more questions. How many days of school did you miss during this unit? Did you complete all your homework and projects? Parents can ask these same questions and encourage their children to improve in these areas. Attendance, daily work ethic, and study skills are keys to success in school.