By GalTime Parenting Pro Michele Borba, Ed.D.
1. WHAT DO YOU DO IF A TEACHER TURNS YOUR CHILD OFF FROM LEARNING?
Most kids complain about a teacher, but if your kid isn't a complainer and has legitimate and serious complaints that could jeopardize his learning, set up a teacher conference. Don't rush to judgment but start on a positive note. Describe your concern, and then ask what two of you can do to solve it. (Use "we" more than "you" - you're more likely to get a more helpful response). Then wait a week and see if there is any change. If there is no resolution to your child's problem, persist. Go up the chain of command: principal, superintendent, to the school board. You may have to switch schools, but a toxic teacher can hinder your child's education not only that year but start a lifelong spiral of defeat.
2. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN TO WORRY ABOUT YOUR CHILD'S LEARNING? HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR CHILD HAS A LEARNING DISABILITY?
If a child is really struggling (usually in math, reading or speech), just doesn't get it, and is falling below his potential, abilities or peers, it may be a learning disability. Talk to the teacher and request an assessment for a possible Individual Education Plan. If you're not successful, make a written request to the site administrator. A learning disability is not a phase or something the child outgrows. If not treated early, things can snowball: your child gets further behind, his self-esteem plummets and behavior problems can result. Also, know that if the child is tested privately, you may pay- make sure school district accepts test results.
Related: Stop the Homework Wars in Your House
3. YOUR CHILDREN ARE BEING EXPOSED TO VIOLENCE AND SEX AT SCHOOL THAT YOU NEVER EXPECTED. HOW DO YOU PREPARE THEM AND YOURSELF FOR THE GRITTIER PARTS OF LIFE?
Kids are exposed to R-rated issues at younger ages so get savvy and prepare yourself so you can prepare your kid. Talk to other parents. And eavesdrop on his friend's conversations. (Carpooling is a great way to get that info!). Kids do need guidance to make sense out of usually false information as well as a sounding board to handle tougher issues like bullying and violence and sex. Tips:
- Begin from the get-go by keeping an open dialogue with your child so he will come to you. You can then make sure that you give him information that is geared to his level of understanding.
- Do believe your child. Kids say they told us "tough stuff" when they were younger, but then stopped when we responded with a "I don't believe it" attitude.
- Teach your child the difference between reporting (trying to keep someone out of trouble) and tattling (trying to get someone in trouble) in case there is bullying or violence. You and your child should know how to report threats to your school. (Please take threats seriously-- 75% of kids tell a peer something before they commit homicide, suicide or a violent act. Kids are our best safety net.
- Don't ever promise your child you won't tell - you may have to step in and report.
4. HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU RELY ON YOUR CHILD'S GUIDANCE COUNSELOR?
A little reality check here: the average student-counselor high school ratio varies from 400 to 1,250[i] so you must be proactive. Go to every one of those open houses and always stop by and meet the guidance counselor at least once a year. Once there, clarify your teen's educational aspirations early, whether it is Ivy League or junior college. Different courses have different values at different universities and you must ensure that your child is on the right course track. You also may want to tell the counselor that you do not want your teen changing courses without your permission. Teens do that often and there's a rude awakening when your child is minus a key class. You want to make sure that the counselor's skills match your teen's needs. You can request another counselor from the principal if you don't think his or her needs or being met. There are also outside educational consultants but do know they can be pricey.
5. SHOULD YOU PUSH YOUR TEEN INTO THAT CHALLENGING AP CLASS WHEN HE BALKS?
This is always a tough call but three things help you make the right decision:
- Previous history: Take into account the child's past grade in the subject as well as the teacher or counselor recommendation. Do they feel your child is capable?
- Kid's view: Listen to the kid's "why not" factor to help you determine if there is "just cause for not taking the class. Hear him out. There may be another reason besides "It's too hard."
- Check your expectations: Ensure your expectations match your child's actual abilities. Think of a rubber band: the right expectations stretch your child's potential without snapping his spirit.
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