A few years back I wrote a letter to my 6th grade parents titled Ways To Help Your Child Succeed In Middle School. It really was a great piece of work and so I decided to add it here for all of you to give to your own students/parents on the first day(s) of school. Then I remembered that my hard drive crashed a while back and that I no longer have said document. I have a few more years under my belt now, an international teaching experience, and have gained the "mom" perspective as well. Perhaps I can write an even better list this year for my faithful blog readers!
1. Color Code your child's supplies. Typically teachers tell students to color code by subject area (all math is blue, all English is red, etc.) Consider color coding by locker breaks. For example, if a student has: Math, English, *LOCKER BREAK*, PE, Art, *LOCKER BREAK*, Science, History, make Math and English supplies one color, PE and Art another, and Science and History a 3rd color. This way a student just needs to remember the daily color order to ensure he/she has all necessary supplies.
2. Write your child's schedule down on an index card and tape to the inside of the locker door. Middle Schoolers are sometimes so busy thinking about other things that they forget which class comes next.
3. If your school allows it, buy a lock for the locker and have your child practice at home PRIOR to placing it on his/her locker. Time your child to make sure the lock can be opened within 10 seconds. They will likely be rushed for time and will need to be able to open it quickly under pressure.
4. Buy a folder for loose papers. In an ideal world your child would get out the correct 3-ring binder, choose the best location for a paper handed out by the teacher, snap it neatly in place and return the binder to their bookbag. But in all honesty, not many students will follow through with this well-thought-out plan. The papers will be crammed in the bookbag, under binders, folded in their pockets and put through the wash, or left on the classroom floor. Have one folder where your child can slide all of these loose papers.
5. Each afternoon when your child gets home, have him/her go through the "loose paper folder" and decide what should be done with each piece. Then have them carry out their decision.
6. Unless a class requires otherwise, empty out all 3-ring binders at the end of each quarter or semester. Students should keep these papers somewhere safe at home in order to review for exams, but there is no reason to carry them back and forth from school.
7. Have your child pack his/her backpack at night before going to bed. Homework, projects, notebooks and supplies often get left behind in the morning rush.
8. Try to make sure your child gets an adequate amount of sleep. Most middle school aged children require 9-10 hours of sleep but are probably only getting 7-8 hours. With busy schedules, extra-curricular activities and homework sometimes this is impossible, but try to set "bedtime" and stick with it when possible.
9. Talk to your child about school. Ask what they are doing in class. Middle Schoolers won't often volunteer information about their day so pry when necessary. Drag it out of them, question by question. Not only is it important to know about their social life, talking about their school lessons will help reinforce what they learned and remember more details.
10. Help your child manage homework time. When they come home from school, make sure they have a good snack and a short break, then have them begin their homework. Students are not at their best right before bedtime and no one wants to work after dinner. If your child works well on his own in a quiet environment, working in their room might be a good option. If your child needs more supervision and help to stay focused, perhaps the kitchen table would be a better choice. As a hint, make sure all at-home school supplies are organized and easy to retrieve to avoid the wandering child!
11. Never, ever tell your child that you hated a subject when you were younger (even if it's true, keep that sentiment to yourself and just tell them you found it challenging). When you do so, many children believe they are doomed to fail at the subject, or that it's ok to hate it as well. And while you might think the antagonism is well placed, it won't help your child succeed. Also, do not tear apart a teacher in front of your child. If you disagree with a teacher, contact him/her directly. Do not involve your child. Your child has to sit in his/her classroom daily and has to show respect. If they feel you do not respect the teacher it will be difficult for them to do so. A child will not learn from someone they disrespect and your child only has one opportunity to learn the material presented.
12. Contact your child's teachers periodically to check on their progress. A quick email asking for an update is a great way to stay in touch with the school.
13. Make sure your child comes to school on time, stays the entire day, and misses only when necessary. If you MUST schedule appointments during school hours, try to schedule them during lunch or vary the times so they don't miss the same classes often. Also, if class time is missed make sure your child ASKS for missed work as soon as possible.
14. Attend all parent meetings to keep abreast of school happenings.
15. Encourage your children to fight their own battles. If they have a problem with a teacher, classmate, or staff member, help them come up with a plan of action but let them work it out without your interference. It helps them build confidence and learn that they can stand up against injustices. That being said, step in and take over for them if the fight is just too big.
I might think of some more later, but here's a good list to get you started. Anyone want to add something to the list?