Just like cars need tune-ups for optimal performance, students can also benefit from academic tune-ups, and midyear is the perfect opportunity to do this. As the year progresses, students often get lazy, develop poor study habits, and go from success mode to survival mode. Since most students are too young to self-assess and make necessary adjustments, parents and teachers should use this time to teach students these skills which will be used for a lifetime.
In our home, we sat down with our middle school daughter and asked questions about each class. How was she feeling about them? Then we shared our observations based on her grades and what we had noticed during the fall semester. We shared that she had a lot of frustration about one subject (math – go figure), so we have decided to get her a tutor for the spring. Her grades are not bad, but the frustration level is something that we wanted to deal with proactively and think tutoring will help. Assessment. Adjustment.
In my classroom, I have my students write a letter before Christmas break where they assess themselves. What have you learned so far? What do you think you still need to learn? Are you putting the necessary effort into this class to reap the benefits? What adjustments do you need to make next semester to do well? I believe this is also a great exercise to do at home with your own student. Teach them how to take control of their own learning.
Another thing to consider is your student’s work environment. At the beginning of the year, these areas are usually clean (in your house I hope, I’m still working on cleaning), organized, and well-supplied, but as the year goes on, well, you know. Take time to bring order back to the study area and replenish supplies. I know I give out far more pens, pencils, and paper in the second semester because kids are just scrounging for whatever they can find. Have your child clean out his or her backpack and binder. Give your student the edge by having them prepared and organized for the rest of the year; these things really do make a big difference.
Another area which may need an adjustment is sleep. Each semester, I have students fail my class simply because they do not get enough sleep during the night to focus during the day. As a result I often hear parents say, “I tell my child to go to bed, but they just don’t.” My thoughts – have your child leave their phone, ipod, ipad, computer, etc. on the kitchen counter each night; you’ll be amazed at how much better they sleep. But my kid’s alarm is on his or her phone; Target has $5 alarm clocks. We did this even in high school (yes, we’re those kind of parents) because kids usually do not have the discipline to turn these items off and sleep. Another thought, wake your child up earlier; maybe he or she can get up and cook you breakfast while you’re getting ready. A few mornings of getting up early means tired kiddos at night. I often hear, “Well, my kid doesn’t get up when I wake him up.” Play loud music (the Army bugle song works well), stand there until she’s out of bed. You are the parent; own this!! (I know you’re feeling sorry for our kids now).
So as the new year begins, don’t waste an opportunity to do a midyear tune-up.