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Morgan: Families and success in school

Posted: August 9, 2015 4:52 p.m.
Updated: August 10, 2015 1:00 a.m.

We are officially one week away from the first day of school for students! One of the many blessings of working in education is you get to start fresh every year. (This is true for both students and the adults who work with them.) 

While I firmly believe schools are ultimately the most accountable for learning, it goes without saying families play a pivotal role in student academic success. I get asked a lot about how families can help their students make the most of school, which I thought would be a good topic for this month’s column, especially since it will run so close to the day we start the new school year. To help me, I asked members of our Teacher Forum, a group which includes some of the most accomplished educators in Kershaw County. These folks had a lot of great things to say. Here’s a summary of the very powerful and realistic ideas they shared with me:

• Talk regularly about the importance of school and how you use what you learned in school on the job and in other practical ways. Young people don’t always see the point. Sometimes we have to help. 

• Stress the importance of reading, read with your student and talk with your student about what he or she is reading. Encourage your student to read a variety of kinds of fiction and non-fiction material. Set an example by reading yourself. Get library cards for everyone in the family. Reading is far and away the backbone of school success. 

• Tied to that, provide reasonable limits on television and other electronics to allow time for reading and academics. (There’s nothing wrong with television or electronics. Balance is the key.)

• Monitor computer and cellphone use, especially in terms of social media. (You might be surprised at the number of problems and general drama which spill into school because of social media issues outside of school.)

• Make sure your student gets adequate rest and eats a reasonable diet. (No one is saying sweets and other less healthy stuff need to be eliminated. Again, everything in moderation.)

• Establish a predictable after school routine which includes both quiet time for homework and study and leisure activities. (Also, remember, the homework is the student’s responsibility. Certainly look it over, but let the student actually do the assignments.)

• Hold your student accountable for meeting their school responsibilities. Don’t fall into the trap of having to make regular trips to school to bring forgotten items.

• Help your student learn to be organized. Suggest strategies for personal organization and help them learn to organize their belongings and plan for their home and school responsibilities. Developing good organizational skills doesn’t just happen. (A personal aside: One of the most useful things my wife and I did to help our son learn organization skills was a twice-weekly “backpack dump.” As a bonus, it was also very entertaining.) 

• Use Parent Portal, school and district websites, and school and teacher Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to track grades and keep up with other information about what’s going on at school.

• If there is a problem, communicate with the teacher or the school administration. Don’t let a problem go on for so long it will be more difficult to get corrected.

• Likewise, keep the school informed of circumstances which might have an impact on your student’s performance at school.

• Help your student learn to handle setbacks. Bouncing back when something doesn’t go well is a critical life skill. You can’t start too early on this one. Adversity is part of life.

• Encourage students to try new things. (I had a mother tell me recently about encouraging her daughter to try archery, even though she had never used a bow and arrow. This activity turned into a passion which improved this student’s confidence and self-discipline.)

I can’t emphasize enough how valuable the district’s online resources can be in terms of helping families stay connected with what’s happening at school. The district website, school websites, district and school Facebook and Twitter pages, and Parent Portal can enable families to keep up with everything in real time. Most of us have experienced asking a child what happened at school today and being told “Nothin’.” Being in the know about what’s going on at school can definitely improve the quality of these conversations.

Let’s make this the best school year ever!!!

I’m always pleased to talk with community members about our schools. My direct dial phone number is 425-8916 and my email is frank.morgan@kcsdschools.net. Citizens can also contact me through the “Ask the Super” link on the homepage of the district Website. I also invite folks to read my “blog” and listen to the podcast I record after each school board meeting with meeting highlights. Both of these, and a whole lot more, can be accessed at on our award-winning website, www.kershaw.k12.sc.us.

 

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