The school year is in full swing now and your child will soon bring home his or her first report card of the school year. Use this as an opportunity to open the lines of communication with your child and his or her teacher and make positive strides forward for the rest of the year. “Many students and their parents dread report cards, but we encourage parents to use these tools to help their children,” says Eileen Huntington, co-founder of Huntington Learning Center. When evaluating report cards, Huntington suggests that parents keep several things in mind:
Getting angry is unproductive. If your child’s report card is disappointing, it may be difficult to keep your emotions in check. However, remember that if you are upset, your child is probably even more so. Yelling and scolding will not help and will only add more stress to the situation. Take the time you need to privately deal with your own feelings before you approach your child to talk.
Communication is critical. If the grades and remarks on the report card are a total surprise to you, perhaps it is time to improve your communication both with your child and his or her teacher. First, have an open, straightforward and non-judgmental conversation with your child about school. What does your child like about school? What subjects are difficult? Is there anything outside the classroom he or she is struggling with? Once you’ve talked with your child, arrange a meeting with the teacher. Identify the areas of the report card that concern you most and talk about what the teacher sees in the classroom. Ask for his or her advice on what steps to take next to make improvements and how you can best support your child at home. As you go forward, be sure to keep up good communication throughout the school year.
It’s not all bad. A report card full of poor grades may be disheartening, but pay attention to the positive signs that may be less obvious. Take note of improvements from last year and encouraging comments from teachers, for example. If this is difficult, find other ways to boost your child’s self-esteem. Is your child creative? Is he or she passionate about helping others, including friends? Does he or she have a positive attitude, despite the struggles with which he or she is dealing? Surprises may be worth investigating further. Don’t ignore new developments or signs of problems that you’ve not seen before, as your child may experience different challenges throughout his or her school career. In the beginning of a school year when students are learning many new skills, it isn’t uncommon for problems to arise. A gap in skills, a faster paced class or a new teaching style can cause issues for students.
While report cards can be a source of stress for parents and students, Huntington reminds parents that they are meant to help. “The report card is full of important data about your child’s progress in school as well as his or her study skills, strengths and weaknesses, behavior and more,” says Huntington. “It’s like an academic checkup that you can use to make decisions about your child’s education.”
Date: Friday, September 29