Magazine article U.S. Catholic

School Supplies: Getting Ready for School Takes More Than a Pencil and Paper

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

School Supplies: Getting Ready for School Takes More Than a Pencil and Paper

Article excerpt

The most important school supplies can't be put in a backpack or a locker. The intangible tools parents provide at home are what teachers see as the difference between kids who succeed in school and those who struggle.

Experiences of responsibility

Kevin, an elementary school principal and parent of three young children, has noticed that children who are successful in school are not strangers to jobs and responsibilities at home. "I tell parents to give children opportunities for independence and make them accountable early on," he says. "Cleaning up their toys is a way to teach responsibility." Research bears out what Kevin suggests. A University of Minnesota study showed a correlation between preschoolers who were asked to regularly help around the house and later academic success. The study's authors noted that continued household responsibilities as children got older were similarly important for academic success late into high school and college and even into early career stages.

Liam, who graduated salutatorian of his high school class, says he attributes his strong study habits to the foundation his parents laid when he was very young. "I remember when my brother and I were in the bath as little kids, we had foam letters that stuck to the side of the bathtub and my dad would have us spell words," he says. "But the spelling itself wasn't so much the point. What was significant was we were doing something at home that was similar to what I was doing in school. It showed education was a priority for our family."

Liam says the emphasis his parents placed on doing his best work helped him define himself as a student. "It wasn't about the grades as much as it was about what they knew I was capable of. My parents set the expectations for me to work hard and study hard in the early grades; then I internalized those expectations and could set them for myself after that."

Be on the teacher's team

The most successful students usually have parents who have great respect for teachers. These parents are quick to recognize the gifts of a particular teacher and also recognize the challenges inherent to the profession--managing a classroom, little or no free time, and an enormous range of abilities within one class.

Leanne, president of a Catholic high school, sees collaboration for the good of the students as a reliable way to get strong academic results. "A three-way partnership of parents, teachers, and students is the best recipe for academic success," she says. "Open dialogue and communication demonstrate to students the commitment their parents and their teachers all have to helping them achieve at their highest level."

Carol, a fourth-grade teacher turned religious education director and mother of four, notes the importance of supporting the teacher as well as homework and school policy. "Any disagreements parents have with the school should be addressed privately and one on one with the teacher or principal. This benefits the child. The teacher is the child's constant for the entire day. If a parent is second-guessing or questioning the teaching, the child will likely do the same. This can cause the child to feel less secure about themselves during the day."

Patty, a longtime elementary school teacher and a parent of five young adult daughters, says that in her experience successful students have parents who value the teacher-child relationship. …

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