Establishing End of Year Rituals for Teens and Parents
Last month’s column recommended that parents contact their teens’ teachers to request end-of-year conferences. As promised, this month’s newsletter contains hints on what to ask for during those meetings. I've also included helpful tips on ushering your child out of one grade and into the next before he dives into summer. These year-end rituals can help your teen make meaning out of even a tough school year and look forward to what lies ahead.
Most of us think about the parent-teacher conference as a ritual of autumn or maybe mid-year. But meeting with your children’s teachers at the end of the school year can be invaluable in fostering future growth. As I mentioned last month, be mindful that this time of year is among the busiest for schoolteachers. The more flexible you are with scheduling, the more likely it is that you’ll get a face-to-face conference. While setting up the appointments, tell teachers that you’d like to discuss your child’s progress and hardships during the past year. Mention that it would be helpful to take a peek at his grades and any assignments that the teacher might have in her possession. Allow the teacher time to prepare for the meeting so that it's productive, and so that the teacher’s not caught off guard. Ask your child to bring home graded work in his locker and collect as much of it as you can from his binders, folders and under his bed. Tell the teacher that you'll bring as much of it to the conference as possible so that she can refresh her memory of your child’s progress. Since many see 150 students every day, it’s sometimes hard for high school teachers to remember each child’s work on each exam, especially if it occurred months ago. Bring as much graded work as possible to help your teen’s teacher focus on him during the conference itself.
On the day of the conference, arrive a few minutes early to give yourself time to find the teacher and to go through any security the school might have in place. Even – or perhaps, especially – if your son couldn’t stand this teacher, thank her for the work she put into teaching him all year. Teachers rarely receive praise. Offering some with honesty and grace sets a nice tone for the meeting, especially if there have been bumpy patches in the rearview mirror. Start off by asking the teacher for areas in which your child showed progress during the year. Remember to ask about social and emotional growth, too, particularly if your child has difficulty there. Next, ask the teacher to pinpoint specific challenges – academic, emotional, social, intellectual and, where relevant, physical and artistic – that your child still faces. During both sets of questions, request that the teacher illustrate her general comments using the schoolwork that you and perhaps she have brought to the meeting. These concrete examples may help you to spot similar struggles in the future. Then, ask whether and how you might be able to use the summer months to help your child work on these challenges. Perhaps there’s a remedial math workbook that the teacher can recommend, a swimming lesson program perfect for older children, or an arts camp that’s shown success in helping shy kids to open up to others. Parents of high-achievers should be ready to hear that their teens could use the summer off to decompress, goof off, and daydream. Whatever needs your child might have, there’s a good chance that his teachers will have some suggestions on how to help address them.
Finally, enlist the teacher’s advice on appropriate goals for the future. While subject teachers can’t necessarily recommend colleges, they can steer you toward standardized tests or coursework your child should think about taking in the coming years. On a more mundane level, though students often rush to trash or torch their notebooks at the end of the year, ask teachers whether they should save notes for future courses or exams. Though it’s best to have these conversations with your child’s classroom teachers, if they’re not able or willing to meet, Crimson Coaches™ are always available to provide similar assessments and guidance.
HELPING YOUR CHILD WRAP UP THE YEAR
Before attending any conference, set aside twenty or so minutes to discuss your child’s strengths and weaknesses with her. Encourage her to reflect back on the year to spotlight breakthroughs and ponder struggles of any kind. This process fosters self-evaluation skills crucial for lifelong learning and future growth. If your teen is mature enough and the teacher is amenable, you might consider inviting her to the parent-teacher conference to share her self-assessments. (Be sure to check with the teacher first, though.) Whether she hears the feedback from teachers or through you later, your child should learn about her their thoughts on her strengths and weaknesses. When the teachers’ reflections contrast with your child’s own, together explore reasons for the disconnect. Such moments might encourage further introspection or highlight an area for continued dialogue with teachers. Finally, you might suggest that your child write a handwritten thank you note to each of her teachers, or at least those who impacted her positively during the past year. Such notes brighten a teacher’s day, year, or career (see one of the many special notes I’ve saved below) while teaching children the importance of expressing gratitude and providing them with a sense of closure to the school year.
Though May and June are busy for teachers, parents, and students alike, take a couple of hours to reflect and dialogue on the past to ensure that your child gets the most out of the months and years ahead.
Dr. P. (Dominique Padurano, Ph.D.) is an author, speaker, educator, and Founder and Head Coach of Crimson Coaching LLC. Crimson Coaching™ provides expert academic assistance in all subjects for students aged 12 to adult.
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